Deforestation: Causes, Sources, Rates, Effects/Problems & Solutions

Deforestation: Causes, Sources, Effects/Problems & Solutions

Deforestation is a significant global environmental issue, but also has consequences for humans and wildlife.

In this guide, we look at what deforestation is, what causes it, where it occurs the most, rates of deforestation, the effects and problems, and potential solutions.

We also look at reforestation and afforestation.


Summary – Deforestation

  • Deforestation is mainly the clearing of forest land or land with trees for non forest use (farming, ranches, logging etc.)
  • The main direct cause of deforestation is agriculture
  • Some of the main side effects of deforestation are habitat damage, biodiversity loss of animals and plant life, aridity, land degradation and top soil erosion (topsoil takes up to a millenia to naturally replenish), loss of biosequestration of carbon from the atmosphere, richer countries benefiting, and people (mainly local populations that depend on the rainforest for their livelihood) from poorer countries losing out
  • Interestingly, we have more trees on Earth now than 35 years ago, but tropical rainforests are still being depleted – which is an issue, because of how rich the biodiversity is in rainforests. So, tropical rainforest deforestation is a significant issue. The thing about tropical rainforest deforestation to note is that, some side effects such as species extinction are irreversible, and, it takes a very long time to restore rainforests – that’s even if they can be restored at all. 
  • Reforestation rates still appear to be lagging (as of right now) behind deforestation rates


What Is Deforestation

  • Deforestation, clearance, or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non-forest use. 
  • Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use.
  • The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests. About 30 percent of Earth’s land surface is covered by forests.



Why Deforestation Occurs

Deforestation occurs for multiple reasons:

  • trees are cut down to be used for building or sold as fuel (sometimes in the form of charcoal or timber)
  • while cleared land is used as pasture for livestock and plantation

Disregard of ascribed value, lax forest management, and deficient environmental laws are some of the factors that allow deforestation to occur on a large scale.

In many countries, deforestation – both naturally occurring and human-induced – is an ongoing issue.



Causes Of Deforestation

… the overwhelming direct cause of deforestation is agriculture

Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of deforestation; commercial agriculture is responsible for 32%; logging is responsible for 14%, and fuel wood removals make up 5%.

Other causes of contemporary deforestation may include corruption of government institutions, the inequitable distribution of wealth and power, population growth and overpopulation, and urbanization.

Globalization is often viewed as another root cause of deforestation, though there are cases in which the impacts of globalization (new flows of labor, capital, commodities, and ideas) have promoted localized forest recovery.



Deforestation Effects & Problems

  • The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity.
  • It has adverse impacts on biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • Deforestation has also been used in war to deprive the enemy of vital resources and cover for its forces. Modern examples of this were the use of Agent Orange by the British military in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency and the United States military in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
  • As of 2005, net deforestation rates have ceased to increase in countries with a per capita GDP of at least US$4,600. Deforested regions typically incur significant adverse soil erosion and frequently degrade into wasteland.
  • Deforestation causes extinction, changes to climatic conditions (via greenhouse gas emissions), desertification, and displacement of populations as observed by current conditions and in the past through the fossil record.
  • More than half of all plant and land animal species in the world live in tropical forests.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 sq mi) of forests around the world were cut down. As a result of deforestation, only 6.2 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) remain of the original 16 million square kilometres (6 million square miles) of forest that formerly covered the Earth.
  • An area the size of a football pitch is cleared from the Amazon rainforest every minute, with 136 million acres (55 million hectares) of rainforest cleared for animal agriculture overall.

Overall, deforestation has the following effects:

  • Environmental – atmospheric, hydrological, and soil problems
  • Wildlife – biodiversity loss
  • Economic – developed/higher income countries profit the most from deforestation, while lesser developed countries can lose out
  • Human – low income countries can suffer from deforestation economically and from a quality of life perspective as they no longer can use the forest to provide for themselves. Also, deforestation can cause public health issues from things like stagnant water and wildlife that can carry diseases after the forest is cleared

You can



Countries With The Most Total Forest Area

You can read more about countries with the most forests at:



A top 6 list includes:

  • Russia 
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • United States
  • China 
  • Australia


Countries With the Highest Deforestation Rates (Total Woodland Area Lost)

You can read more about deforestation rates at:



A top 10 list includes:

  • Brazil 
  • Indonesia
  • Russia
  • Mexico
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • The US
  • Bolivia
  • Sudan
  • Nigeria


Is Deforestation Increasing Or Decreasing Based On Year By Year Stats & Numbers? 

There’s two things to know about deforestation up until this point in time:

  • We have more total tree cover (tropical areas + subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions) on Earth than 35 years ago
  • … Earth may presently have more trees than 35 years ago … but, some of its most productive and biodiverse biomes—especially tropical forests and savannas—are significantly more damaged and degraded, reducing their resilience and capacity to afford ecosystem services.
  • … tropical tree cover loss has been increasing since continuously since 2001 (this is important to note because tropical rainforests are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth)

You can read more about deforestation stats year by year at:



Although there some uncertainties around the rates of deforestation and the stats provided, there is an agreement that destruction of rainforests remains a significant environmental problem.

Some effects are irreversible, such as wildlife species loss.

It takes time to bring life back to forests once trees are replanted.

There is a difference between total tree area, and tree density in forests – so these indicators should be measured separately with reforestation.


Potential Deforestation Solutions, Management & Control

To control and reduce deforestation, there are several strategies that might be used:

  • … use direct monetary or other incentives to encourage developing countries to limit and/or roll back deforestation. This is done through several different types of programs run through the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Agreement. In the last two decades, various studies estimate that land use change, including deforestation and forest degradation, accounts for 12-29% of global greenhouse gas emissions – so it helps with managing climate change too
  • Transferring land rights from the public domain to indigenous communities
  • New more sustainable methods of farming and agriculture such as food forests in permaculture
  • Monitoring deforestation via visual interpretation of aerial photos or satellite imagery, and hot spot analysis. Deforestation rate and total area deforested are two key stats used for example
  • Designing forest management policies to consider the short term and long term effects of deforestation
  • Having global certification systems such as Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and Forest Stewardship Council, which contributes to tackling deforestation by creating market demand for timber from sustainably managed forests
  • Having world tree planting days like China has to replenish tree numbers
  • Using bamboo instead of wood
  • Reforestation and afforestation
  • Increasing the number of planted forests



Reforestation & Afforestation Rates & Information

It’s hard to find accurate reforestation rates.

Recently (over the last few years), there’s been some significant tree planting projects in various countries undertaken that have been individually reported.


Some stats on reforestation are:

  • By one measure the global reforestation rate between 1990 and 2005 was 2.5 million hectares a year, compared to 7 million to 8 million hectares a year destroyed by deforestation in that period. In the 1990s, in another estimate, 14 millions hectares were lost a year to deforestation but 5.2 million hectares was gained through replanting for a net loss of 9.4 million hectares.



You can read more about reforestation and afforestation rates and numbers in these resources:



















Land (& Soil) Degradation: Types, Causes, Effects, & Solutions/Ways To Prevent It

Land Pollution, Degradation & Soil Contamination: Causes, Sources, Effects & Solutions

Land and soil are some of the most important resources we have on earth.

So, it’s important to learn how land/soil is being used, degraded, and conserved/protected.

Land degradation is the blanket term usually used to describe a number of land and soil degradation issues such as soil contamination, soil erosion, desertification, and more.

In this guide, we look at what land degradation is in it’s entirety, along with the causes, the effects/impacts, and the potential solutions to prevent it.


Summary – Land & Soil Degradation

  • Land and soil degradation can take many forms – up to 36 types exist
  • This is an issue as we rely on soil and land to live on, produce our food, make our clothes, support plant and animal life, plus other important things
  • Some of the major types include soil erosion, soil contamination, desertification, soil acidification, soil salinity
  • Some of the major causes include wind and water weathering of soil, deforestation and clearing of land, intensive or unsustainable agricultural practices, mining, urbanization and human development, carrying of contaminants by air and water, leaching and run off of contaminants, improper management/disposal of waste, natural or severe weather events, indirect factors, and human population growth
  • Degradation of the world’s arable land and top soil are becoming significant issues – it’s estimated we may only have 60 years worth of harvests in top soil left in some countries
  • Some solutions to land degradation might include more sustainable farming practices, reducing deforestation rates and planting more trees and plant life, examining our diets to eat more sustainably produced foods, more sustainable mining practices, ensure landfills are properly sealed, monitor industrial waste and dispose of it properly, limit run off from highways and roads, limit water pollution, limit air pollution, fund large projects to restore damaged and degraded soil and land


First, How Do We Use Land On Earth?

Before we look at how land is being degraded, it’s a good idea to get an overall idea of what we generally use land for on earth.

Land types and usage might be divided into:

  • Forest land, scrub land, desert and uninhabited land
  • Agricultural – pasture, and crop land
  • Urban land use – Recreational (parks), Transport (roads, railways), Residential (housing), Commercial/Industrial (business),
  • Special Use land, Miscellaneous Use land


The US Department of Agriculture has identified six major types of land use in the US. Acreage statistics for each type of land use in the contiguous 48 states in 2017 were as follows:

  • Pasture/range: 654 M
  • Forest: 538.6 M
  • Cropland: 391.5 M
  • Special use: 168.8 M
  • Miscellaneous: 68.9 M
  • Urban: 69.4 M 



What Is Land Degradation?

Land degradation is a very broad term used to describe a range of land degradation forms, with soil erosion, soil contamination, desertification, and soil acidification being some of the major ones.


Land degradation usually has a few elements:

  • Damage or change to land or soil which can be physical/mechanical (caused by physical actions) or chemical (caused by a synthetic or hazardous chemical – like pesticides), and caused by humans (such as farmers) or a natural factor (such as weather)
  • Results in reduced potential for, or complete loss of, the land being used for any number of land uses – farming/growing food, urban development, biodiversity and ecosystems for animals and plant life etc (this includes deforestation and clearing of rangelands that contribute positively to the ecosystem). The value of the land for humans, animals, plant/vegetation and organisms is lessened as a result of land degradation. As an example, the land’s potential for food production, for building biodiversity, for urban development – is lessened.

Land degradation can be direct (where land or soil is directly damaged), or it can be indirect (where for example contaminated water leaches from it’s source onto a land/soil source)


Something that is interesting to note is that what is land degradation to some, may not be to others. For example, an environmentalist or scientist may look at the environmental aspects of how farmed land is being used, whereas a farmer might look at the economic aspect of what that land can provide.


Types Of Land Degradation

There can be many types of land degradation.

Some of the major types are:

  • Soil Erosion – (wind erosion, water erosion, mechanical erosion and so on)

A partial or complete loss of the top fertile layer of soil (the soil layer with minerals and organic matter in it). Arable land in particular has fertile soil used to grow crops.

  • Soil Contamination – (chemical contamination by fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, hazardous waste from industry & residential sectors etc.)

When the chemical properties of the soil and land are changed and contaminated. 

  • Desertification – (land degradation in arid/dry zone areas)

When soil loses all it’s water and green matter. In this case, it’s very hard to restore the land.

  • Soil Acidification – (a reduction in the pH of soil)

When the soil becomes too acidic, it loses it’s productivity. It can be caused by soil amendments, acid rain, nitrogen emissions in the air, and other factors.

  • Soil Salinity – (an increase in the salt content of the soil)

When the soil becomes to saline, it loses it’s productivity. It can be caused by ocean environments, over irrigation, water sources with salinity issues, and other factors.


But, there are others – up to around 36 types of land degradation in total.

Land pollution is another name used to describe land degradation.


Causes & Sources Of Land Degradation

There are different causes for the different types/forms of land degradation, and causes may differ from one country or state/province to another (depending on factors like agricultural practices, other environmental pollution factors and so on). For example, the causes of land degradation in one part of Australia might be different to the causes in one part of Africa.

Beyond the specific causes of land degradation, the general causes of land degradation are usually either physical or chemical, or both.

Additionally, they can be natural causes, or they can be human causes.

Soil erosion fore example happens via wind, and water from rain – which are natural causes. But, it can also happen from deforestation, over-cultivation and over-grazing and other human causes.

Another example is soil contamination. This is primarily a human caused land degradation issue, with agricultural chemicals and industrial chemicals being big chemical contaminants.

Waste disposal, mining, urbanization, agricultural chemicals, atmospheric deposition, soil erosion might be seen as the major causes of land degradation.

More specifically, the causes of land degradation overall might be:

  • Wind and Water Weathering Of Soil – naturally removes small amounts of the top soil from farming land
  • Deforestation, Logging & Clearing Of Land – usually for conversion of land to agricultural land. The ground cover is cleared, exposing the top soil or removing the top soil completely. Biodiversity is also degraded with the clearing of ecosystems and organic matter.
  • Intensive Or Unsustainable Farming Practices, Or Mismanaging Land – overgrazing, over tillage, over fertilizing (nitrogen can become excessive), over application of pesticide and herbicide, over irrigation or improper irrigation, and other factors. Additionally, farmers might not set up land conservation practices like ground cover and soil/water drains that can maintain land and top soil.
  • Mining – excavation, and mining waste and tailings can cause contamination and degradation
  • Urbanisation, & Human Development – development of cities, towns, infrastructure, roads etc. involves the clearing of green land and soil.
  • Atmospheric Deposition, & Leaching Of Chemicals – leaching of chemicals or carrying of chemicals (by wind, water etc.) from one location to another where land/soil becomes contaminated or degraded. For example, pesticides can be carried in the air from one place to another. Oil can also leach from roads and major highways into land and water sources .
  • Improper Management/Disposal Of Hazardous Chemicals – from households, factories, gas stations. Can cause soil contamination. Radioactive waste from nuclear plants are another example of this.
  • Improper Management/Disposal Of Waste – hard waste, water waste, human sewage and so on. Can cause soil contamination and land pollution. Mismanaged landfills are another example of this – where leachate can leak out.
  • Natural Or Severe Weather Events – floods, hurricanes and other events
  • Indirect Factors – climate change, air pollution, water pollution and other factors
  • Human Population Growth – puts pressure on land and soil through increased and more intense food production, increase urbanisation, increased water and air pollution, more waste produced and so on


You can see a good visualisation of soil contamination and how it might be caused here:


–, and


There’s a difference between the causes of erosion on open land and agricultural land:

  • The basic factors causing soil erosion-induced degradation are wind and water erosion. Acidification, compaction and salinization are some other causes of agricultural land degradation.
  • The main causes of erosion on agricultural land are intensive cultivation, overgrazing, poor management of arable soils and deforestation.



  • The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming. [more severe weather events like droughts can deprive soil of moisture]



Causes of soil contamination:

  • Soil contamination in particular might be caused by Oil spills, Mining and activities by other heavy industries, Acid rain, Agrochemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, Industrial accidents, Road debris, Drainage of contaminated surface water into the soil, Ammunitions, chemical agents, and other agents of war, Waste disposal of Oil and fuel dumping, Nuclear wastes, Direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil, Discharge of sewage, Landfill and illegal dumping, Coal ash and Electronic waste.
  • The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals.
  • Any activity that leads to other forms of soil degradation (erosion, compaction, etc.) may indirectly worsen the contamination effects in that soil remediation becomes more tedious.



Some stats on the causes of land degradation are:

  • Deforestation accounts for the major land degradation problem as it results in severe soil erosion, flood, and loss of fertile soil.
  • Land degradation is caused by soil water erosion (46%), wind erosion (36%), loss of nutrients (9%), physical deterioration (4%), and salinization (3%).
  • Overgrazing (49%) followed by agricultural activities (24%), deforestation (14%), and overexploitation of vegetative cover (13%) are the primary causes of land degradation in rural areas

– has this to say about the causes of land degradation, particularly outlining industrial agriculture as a major cause of land degradation:

  • urbanisation, climate change, erosion and forest loss [are all causes of land degradation]. But the biggest factor is the expansion of industrial farming.
  • Heavy tilling, multiple harvests and abundant use of agrochemicals have increased yields at the expense of long-term sustainability. In the past 20 years, agricultural production has increased threefold and the amount of irrigated land has doubled … Over time, however, this diminishes fertility and can lead to abandonment of land and ultimately desertification.
  • … decreasing productivity can be observed on 20% of the world’s cropland, 16% of forest land, 19% of grassland, and 27% of rangeland.
  • High levels of food consumption in wealthy countries such as the UK are also a major driver of soil degradation overseas.
  • So, high levels of food consumption, high levels of meat consumption, poor land regulation and poor farming efficiency can compound land degradation effects



  • There are six major causes of land degradation in the region: deforestation, shortage of land due to increased populations, poor land use, insecure land tenure, inappropriate land management practices and poverty.
  • Water and wind erosion are the major problems but salinity, sodicity and alkalinity are also widespread; water tables have been over-exploited; soil fertility has been reduced; and where mangrove forest has been cleared for aquaculture or urban expansion, coastal erosion has been a common result.
  • Finally, urban expansion has become a major form of land degradation, removing large areas of the best agricultural land from production.
  • The effect of these forms of land degradation on cereal production has so far been masked by the increasing levels of agricultural inputs that are used. However, production of other crops, such as pulses, roots and tubers, has now begun to decline. It is no coincidence that these crops arc grown on land with low production potential, where rates of land degradation are highest.



Read more about land degradation causes in different parts of the world at:

  • (major causes of land degradation, but also soil loss cause by region of the world – we see in Africa overgrazing is the major cause, but in North America it’s agricultural practices)
  • (causes in developing countries)


How Much Of An Issue Is Land Degradation? – Where Is It Happening, & To What Extent? (Stats On Land Degradation)

As noted above with causes, land degradation is happening to different extent in different countries and states/provinces.

Land degradation has been a more significant issue in developing countries than developed countries. But, it’s becoming more of an issue now in developed countries too.

What should also be noted about land degradation is that it is harder for us to see with our naked eye – you can see some signs of things like erosion and desertification, but you can’t see what is happening underground or what chemicals are in the ground, or the quality or thickness of fertile soil.

For these reasons, people may not think land degradation is as big of an issue as it really is.

Some stats on the extent of land degradation and where it is happening (worldwide and country specific) are:


  • It is estimated that up to 40% of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded.



  • It is estimated that today, 33 percent of land is moderately to highly degraded due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of soils.



  • Soils play a key role in absorbing carbon and filtering water, the FAO reported. Soil destruction creates a vicious cycle, in which less carbon is stored, the world gets hotter, and the land is further degraded.



  • One-third to half of the world’s agricultural land was in a degraded state in 2010, and a quarter was severely degraded …
  • Even as pressure grows to boost agricultural production, another 12 million ha are lost each year due to poor soil and water management and other unsustainable farming practices …
  • The United Nations estimates that degradation of agricultural landscapes cost US$40 billion worldwide in 2014, not counting the hidden costs of increased fertiliser use and the loss of biodiversity and of unique landscapes …



  • Land degradation is already one of the major problems affecting the world
  • Global rates of soil erosion have been exceeding those of new soil formation by 10- and 20-fold on most continents of the world in the last few decades.
  • Currently some 6–7 million hectares are lost annually through soil erosion
  • Desertification affects about one-sixth of the world’s population and one-quarter of the world’s land
  • Salinization affects some 20 million hectares of irrigated land.
  • Land degradation through damage to the soil is a serious problem and its causes are often complex and interwoven. Severe damage has already been done to the world’s soils, and the impact of climate change needs to be considered in parallel with the effect of the existing pressures on the land. It is difficult to separate the effects of these various impacts and their cumulative impact on soils is often greater than a simple summation.
  • The UNDP estimated that $42 billion in income and 6 million ha of productive land are lost every year due to land degradation



  • A third of the planet’s land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24bn tonnes a year
  • The impacts [of land degradation] vary enormously from region to region.
  • Worst affected is sub-Saharan Africa, but poor land management in Europe also accounts for an estimated 970m tonnes of soil loss from erosion each year with impacts not just on food production but biodiversity, carbon loss and disaster resilience. 
  • … sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, the Middle East and north Africa will face the greatest challenges [in the future] unless the world sees lower levels of meat consumption, better land regulation and improved farming efficiency.



  • America’s farms have lost about half their soil organic matter since colonial days



  • Of the 80 countries substantially affected by land degradation, 36 are situated in Africa.
  • In Lesotho, for example, over 100 km2 (approximately 2% of the total land area) has been degraded due to overgrazing and incorrect farming practices, as well as mismanagement of rangeland and residues from chemicals/pesticides

– (World Health Organisation)


  • In the Philippines, for example, it is estimated that soil erosion carries away a volume of soil equivalent to one metre deep over 200 000 hectares every year. In India, some 144 million hectares of land are affected by either wind or water erosion. In Pakistan, 8.1 million hectares of land have been lost to wind erosion and 7.4 million hectares to water erosion.



More resources that outline where land degradation takes place in the world, and stats on how much land degradation and erosion is happening can be found at:



Effects & Impact Of Land Degradation

We have a growing population of people on earth.

As mentioned above, land and soil are resources that we use to not only regulate the environment, but use to extract or produce other resources for that growing population of people.

We will need more production or better efficiency in the future from out land resources, not less.

We use land to:

  • Grow food, grow fibres, raise livestock
  • Develop housing, commercial buildings and factories, build roads and other infrastructure
  • Mine minerals, metals and fossil fuels
  • Manage our waste (landfills)
  • Contain freshwater sources
  • Support living organisms, animals, plants/vegetation and ecosystems
  • + more

Land degradation has an impact on:

  • Our ability to make money and support an economy
  • Our ability to produce or protect vital resources like food and water
  • Animals and the environment
  • Our health and well being (when we talk about soil contamination and cross contamination of water sources)

What is very clear is that land degradation, through loss of efficiency, loss of production and through increased health and other risks – impacts the short and long term future of the social, economic and environmental aspects of society.


Soil erosion and other land degradation issues lead to soil that is less able to hold water, has less minerals and nutrients, has less beneficial microorganisms, and ultimately – these things can lead to decreased yields and productivity, which in turn means less food production for the population.



  • ongoing soil degradation reduces global harvests by a third of a percent each year under conventional farming practices



  • the American economy losing roughly $37 billion in productivity annually from soil loss.


  • About 60 percent of soil that is washed away [worldwide via soil erosion] ends up in rivers, streams and lakes, increasing the risks of flooding and intensifying water contamination from fertilizers and pesticides runoff.



You can read more about the effects and costs of land degradation and soil erosion at:

  • (the economics of topsoil loss on a farm)


How To Prevent Land Degradation, & Potential Solutions

It depends on the country and state/province as to the best strategy to prevent and solve short and long term land degradation.

Obviously, it depends heavily on the major causes of land degradation in that region as to what the prevention and solution strategies should be.

If we look at the general causes of land degradation, some solutions and prevention strategies related to those causes would be:

  • Water & Wind Soil Erosion – farming practices like introducing ground cover, and building up the organic matter in the soil can help reduce the effects of water and wind erosion.
  • Deforestation, Logging & Clearing Of Land – become more efficient with existing plots of farming land so less land has to be cleared in the future of agricultural land conversion. Introduce more tree planting and reforestation programs for farming land, logging land and cleared land affected by land degradation.
  • Industrial Farming Methods > Organic & Sustainable Farming Practices – move more towards organic and sustainable agricultural practices that preserve land and soil health with minimal or even beneficial effects on yield and land production rates. Industrial farming methods like over application of fertilizer and pesticides, over grazing, over irrigation, too much tillage and so on – all extract more from land and soil without putting any nutrients back in the ground. Ground cover, no till farming, organic fertilizers and manure, drip irrigation, water and soil drains, and other techniques can all help preserve land.
  • Farming Efficiency – become more efficient with existing farming practices. This means we can grow more food for a growing population on less land.
  • Look At Our Diets –  consider moving more towards plant based diets from animal products (meat and dairy). Plant based diets produce more food per person with less land than animal based products.
  • Climate Change – look at the impact severe and changing weather events are having on soil health. 
  • Mining For Minerals, Metals & Fossil Fuels – more emphasis can be put on restoring mining sites. But also, we can look at re-using and recycling metals and minerals already mined and being used above ground. We can also look at moving towards renewable energy and electric cars – both of which mean we can eventually mine less fossil fuels from the ground.
  • Landfills – ensure landfills are properly sealed so leachate doesn’t leak out and contaminate land/soil. Also, look at the benefits of moving further towards recycling over landfills.
  • Factories & Industrial Waste – limit and minimise illegal or damaging dumping of industrial waste.
  • Other Hazardous Waste – such as radioactive waste. Ensure treatment and disposal of this waste doesn’t damage land.
  • Transport – run off from roads and highways usually comes from oil/petroleum. So, as mentioned above, moving towards alternate fuel vehicles may help.
  • Water Pollution & Air Pollution – limit water pollution which can contaminate soil, and limit air pollution (where excess nitrogen in the air and acid rain can cause soil/land degradation issues)
  • Restoring Damaged Land/Soil – soil that has been contaminated can be aerated and treated. Additionally, top soil that has been eroded can be renewed (slowly). Soil that is too acidic can be rebalanced. Land that has been desertified by weather, mining or other factors can be restored in various ways. This is all expensive and time consuming though. Bioremediation and phytoremediation are two examples of new/developing soil restoration technology.
  • Recycling Damaged Land/Soil – instead of restoring the land, it might be recycled with an end use in mind. For example, former mining sites might become sites for solar panels and wind farms, or land fill sites might become parks.
  • Regenerative Agriculture vs GMO Crops – some people think we can provide more food into the future with GMO technology, whilst others argue the downsides and disadvantages to it and prefer regenerative agriculture which focuses on organic and sustainable and holistic farming practices. We will have to choose in the future what balance of these two approaches to go with.


Some ideas from

  • Economic incentives need to be put in place for farmers at the frontier of forests so that they intensify their production without expanding their land by cutting down the forests. (via
  • Governments could put money into researching higher yielding varieties of tropical crops and then develop policies like subsidized seeds to encourage their use.
  • The farmers could be educated by local extension agencies in sustainable practices like conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation and adding crop residuals to increase the fertility of their soil instead of fertilizers that cause greenhouse gas emissions, and land, water and air pollution.
  • The inhabitants of the forests could be taught other methods of earning an income that do not jeopardize the forest habitat, like ecotourism in its purest sense or small-scale businesses harvesting sustainable amounts of the forest’s resources and replacing them.
  • Insisting on organic food would be a very big start to reducing the adverse effects of agriculture on land.  Requiring sustainable practices that help land regenerate and re-establish a community of beneficial organisms between crops would be helpful.  Zoning requirements mandating havens of biological diversity at the edges of agricultural land, once the toxic chemicals are no longer in the equation of course, would work to promote the natural balance of life, where crickets and frogs and pollinators can all help make the land more productive.
  • Populations eating less beef would go a long way to reducing the need for animal feed and land for grazing.
  • Consuming less overall per person would go a long way to reducing land pollution
  • Protect land via legislation.  This applies too to regulations governing mining and industrial waste and disposal of solid and hazardous waste.
  • The world’s population needs to be educated in the health hazards of soil pollutants to create an awareness of what is happening and the importance of being involved.
  • A possibility is bringing religious leaders into the picture to help educate their followers. Very often there is a dichotomy on environmental issues as the theory of evolution invites an easy divisiveness between science and religion, but that gap should be bridged as we reach toward a common solution.



Some solutions to soil erosion and restoring saline soil:

  • Restoration of eroded agricultural land is achieved through several agronomic and biological techniques. Crop rotations, agro-forestry, reduced tillage, cover crops, vegetative filter strips, residue, and no-till are important among these.
  • Biological measures such as buffers, conditioner application in direct contact with the soil surface, crop residues using manure protect the soil from erosion.
  • Restoration of saline agricultural land can be achieved through recharge stabilization and reconstruction of saline land through fencing, retain remnant vegetation, revegetation, runoff interception earthworks, and water table lowering.
  • Financial support, public awareness, education and training, particularly of farmers, are necessary to accomplish such objectives. [as well as good policy, regulations and support by governments and land conservation organisation. Investment and further research and testing into sustainable farming and land restoration is also important]
  • [subsidies, rewards and insurances for farmers who implement soil restoration practices may also be a priority]



  • New farming practices like terraces and temporary “cover” crops have helped lower soil erosion by more than 40 percent over the past two decades



In particular with soil contamination – to resolve current issues with contamination, methods might include:

  • Excavate soil and take it to a disposal site away from ready pathways for human or sensitive ecosystem contact. 
  • Aeration of soils at the contaminated site (with attendant risk of creating air pollution)
  • Thermal remediation by introduction of heat to raise subsurface temperatures sufficiently high to volatize chemical contaminants out of the soil for vapor extraction. Technologies include ISTD, electrical resistance heating (ERH), and ET-DSP.
  • Bioremediation, involving microbial digestion of certain organic chemicals. Techniques used in bioremediation include landfarming, biostimulation and bioaugmentating soil biota with commercially available microflora.
  • Extraction of groundwater or soil vapor with an active electromechanical system, with subsequent stripping of the contaminants from the extract.
  • Containment of the soil contaminants (such as by capping or paving over in place).
  • Phytoremediation, or using plants (such as willow) to extract heavy metals.
  • Mycoremediation, or using fungus to metabolize contaminants and accumulate heavy metals.
  • Remediation of oil contaminated sediments with self-collapsing air microbubbles.
  • Surfactant leaching



The FAO has this to say about land and soil reclamation and restoration:

  • The effects of water and wind erosion are largely irreversible. Although plant nutrients and soil organic master may be replaced, to replace the actual loss of soil material would require taking the soil out of use for many thousands of years, an impractical course of action.
  • In other cases, land degradation is reversible: soils with reduced organic master can be restored by additions of plant residues, degraded pastures may recover under improved range management. Salinized soils can be restored to productive use, although at a high cost, through salinity control and reclamation projects.
  • Land reclamation frequently requires inputs which are costly, labour-demanding or both. The reclamation projects in salinized and waterlogged irrigated areas demonstrate this fact clearly. In other cases, the land can only be restored by taking it out of productive use for some years, as in reclamation forestry. The cost of reclamation, or restoration to productive use, of degraded soils is invariably less than the cost of preventing degradation before it occurs.

[So, some types of land degradation are reversible – but, there are time and cost considerations. And, you have to consider risk for farmers, as well as lost productivity opportunity.]



In terms of real life examples of rehabilitated land:

  • … positive progress made by countries like Ethiopia, which has rehabilitated 7m hectares (17m acres).
  • Lower levels of meat consumption, better land regulation and improved farming efficiency can help us prevent more land degradation in the future from agriculture



One of the best ways to prevent land degradation worldwide in the future would be to better map the world’s land and soil (with satellites and other technology), and track the impact of different factors (like deforestation, farming, weather etc.) on this land and soil. An example of how this is currently being done is the Global Land Outlook.


Recognizing The Challenges With Preventing Or Solving Land Degradation

If we take arable land and land with fertile topsoil for example – there are a number of approaches farmers are encouraged to take to prevent soil erosion.

However, these approaches can be time consuming, in some cases decrease yields, and eat at profits. They can also be a risk for farmers.

For farmers in poorer countries – these approaches may be completely unrealistic.

Another example is fossil fuels we mine from the ground. We want to use more renewable green energy that makes use of solar and wind power – but that technology has it’s challenges too and can’t yet supply all our energy needs.

These are multi layered realities we have to face if we truly want to address land degradation.























Human Overpopulation: Causes, Effects, Problems & Solutions

Human Overpopulation: Causes, Effects, Problems & Solutions

Human overpopulation is an issue by itself.

But, if there is one thing that is a major cause of most other sustainability issues – it’s human overpopulation.

It makes sense – more people means more consumption (of food, water, natural resources etc.), and more emissions (greenhouse gases, waste etc.)

In this guide, we discuss the causes, effects, problems and potential solutions behind overpopulation.


Summary – Human Overpopulation

  • Human overpopulation is essentially the point where the number of humans in an area, region, city, country or the world, cannot be maintained
  • This might occur because there is not enough resources to support that number of humans, or because the man made systems or natural environmental begin to degrade in terms of their ability to support those humans
  • The number of humans in an area can increase because of increased birth rates, decrease in the mortality/death rates, and increase in immigration
  • Historically, technological revolutions or advances in technologies have increased populations e.g. the tool-making revolution, the agricultural revolution, and the industrial revolution – all of which allowed humans more access to food, resulting in subsequent population explosions.
  • The fertility rate is strongly influenced by cultural and social norms that are rather stable and therefore slow to adapt to changes in the social, technological, or environmental conditions.
  • Population increase rates tend to be highest in areas where children die young, where there is poverty (especially extreme poverty), and where there is lack of access to education
  • Religious and ideological opposition to birth control has been cited as a factor contributing to overpopulation and poverty
  • Guatemala is an example of a country whose average family size halved with the decrease in extreme poverty. Cambodia and Namibia are two countries who have gone through similar trends
  • Populations in some of the poorest countries in the world are expected to double and even triple by 2040-50
  • Overpopulation in poorer countries is highly undesirable as economic development falls far behind a point where there is proper capital available to invest in the people and the country to support them. If you add corruption and a lack of proper social and government systems, the picture that is painted for these countries is even bleaker
  • When developed countries face quicker population increases, it can place a strain on resources that were already depleting or stressed, such as a city’s water supply
  • Over population means more resources are needed by a population as a whole (with freshwater and drinking water being one key example – demand increases for this crucial resource), but also more waste is produced, and there is more pollution and environmental degradation. Economically, there are more consumers and employees/skills introduced to the economy, but also more labor and more competition for jobs.
  • The effects of overpopulation are compounded by overconsumption, broken or inefficient systems, ineffective technology, environmental pollution and degradation, and other factors
  • Technology can play a large role in providing enough resources for a population e.g. look at the difference between agricultural sectors in developing vs developed countries, as well as the capacity to produce electricity, provide cold food storage etc.
  • Perth in Western Australia is a dry city, but faces many of the same challenges as Cape Town (dry city, increasing population, prone to droughts). Perth was able to provide enough freshwater and Cape Town experienced a water shortage because of various factors like good governmental planning, investment in water treatment and recycling, investment in desalination plants and so on.
  • There is an argument made that rich countries use the most resources from the planet, while poorer countries receive few of the benefits as a whole
  • The US across many measures (along with other developed countries) consume far more resources per capita than many poorer countries
  • The most overpopulated cities tend to be in developing countries where poverty is rampant due to this overcrowding (leading to sickness, disease, death and so on)
  • Even in developed countries, cities deal with intense smog and pollution problems that exacerbate health and poverty issues. Labor prices can also start to diminish with an increase in labor
  • Solutions to overpopulation tend to focus around reducing poverty, lifting education rates, increasing the quality of health care and safety (especially for children), and investing in basic living resources for the poorest countries or countries with the highest fertility and population increase rates
  • Other general solutions include investing in technology to provide the most crucial resources in all countries, becoming clear on exactly how many people each city in the world can sustainably support with the technology, resources and systems they currently have, more education and access to healthcare for women in regards to pregnancy, education for men on contraception, enforcing birth laws/regulations for the most heavily populated and quickest growing cities and countries, and to examine our consumption and waste habits city by city. Cities might focus on quality of life as a measurement of how many people a city can support
  • Each city has it’s own capabilities and capacity to support different populations to different extents – it’s too general to examine overpopulation at the country or state/province level
  • Some people have suggested space colonization and making use of resources in space as an option in the future for further human population expansion
  • The world’s population currently sits at around 7 billion in 2019, and is forecasted to reach somewhere between 9 to 13 billion between 2050 to 2100
  • There is more information in this guide about whether humans and Earth might run out of resources in the future, and what might happen if we do


What Is Human Overpopulation?

Overpopulation occurs when a species’ population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche.

Human overpopulation occurs when the ecological footprint of a human population in a specific geographical location exceeds the carrying capacity of the place occupied by that group.

Overpopulation can further be viewed, in a long term perspective, as existing when a population cannot be maintained given the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources or given the degradation of the capacity of the environment to give support to the population

The term human overpopulation also refers to the relationship between the entire human population and its environment: the Earth, or to smaller geographical areas such as countries.

It is possible for very sparsely populated areas to be overpopulated if the area has a meagre or non-existent capability to sustain life (e.g. a desert).



Human Overpopulation Causes

Overpopulation can result from:

  • an increase in births (fertility rate),
  • a decline in the mortality rate,
  • an increase in immigration,
  • or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources



  • The UN projects the population of the 48 poorest countries in the world will double from 850 million in 2010 to 1.7 billion in 2050.

Population Institute, via the


  • The higher the death rate for children in a region, the higher the birthrate… When people know their children will survive, they have few children. Addressing global poverty and keeping children alive is crucial for reducing overpopulation.



  • Poverty and the lack of access to education leads to higher birthrates and overpopulation.

– USAID, via


  • “Where rapid population growth far outpaces economic development, countries will have a difficult time investing in the human capital needed to secure the well-being of its people and to stimulate further economic growth. This issue is especially acute for the least developed countries, many of which are facing a doubling, or even a tripling of their populations by 2050.”

– UN Population Fund, via


  • When poverty rates drop, birthrates soon follow…
  • Extreme poverty in Guatemala has decreased by nearly 40% since 1992, and with that decline in poverty, the average family size has fallen from almost 6 children to just over 3.
  • In 1994, the average family in Cambodia had nearly 6 children; by 2015, extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25 per day) in Cambodia had fallen more than 40% and average family size had decreased by more than half.
  • The last 20 years in Namibia have seen extreme poverty rates fall by 20% and average family size halved.



  • From a historical perspective, technological revolutions have coincided with population expansion.
  • There have been three major technological revolutions – the tool-making revolution, the agricultural revolution, and the industrial revolution – all of which allowed humans more access to food, resulting in subsequent population explosions.
  • For example, the use of tools, such as bow and arrow, allowed primitive hunters greater access to more high energy foods (e.g. animal meat). Similarly, the transition to farming about 10,000 years ago greatly increased the overall food supply, which was used to support more people. Food production further increased with the industrial revolution as machinery, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides were used to increase land under cultivation as well as crop yields.
  • Today, starvation is caused by economic and political forces rather than a lack of the means to produce food.
  • Significant increases in human population occur whenever the birth rate exceeds the death rate for extended periods of time. Traditionally, the fertility rate is strongly influenced by cultural and social norms that are rather stable and therefore slow to adapt to changes in the social, technological, or environmental conditions.
  • For example, when death rates fell during the 19th and 20th century – as a result of improved sanitation, child immunizations, and other advances in medicine – allowing more newborns to survive, the fertility rate did not adjust downward, resulting in significant population growth.
  • Until the 1700s, seven out of ten children died before reaching reproductive age. Today, more than nine out of ten children born in industrialized nations reach adulthood.
  • There is a strong correlation between overpopulation and poverty. In contrast, the invention of the birth control pill and other modern methods of contraception resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of children per household in all but the very poorest countries.
  • Agriculture has sustained human population growth. This dates back to prehistoric times, when agricultural methods were first developed, and continues to the present day, with fertilizers, agrochemicals, large-scale mechanization, genetic manipulation, and other technologies.
  • Humans have historically exploited the environment using the easiest, most accessible resources first. The richest farmland was plowed and the richest mineral ore mined first. Ceballos, Ehrlich A and Ehrlich P said that overpopulation is demanding the use of ever more creative, expensive and/or environmentally destructive means in order to exploit ever more difficult to access and/or poorer quality natural resources to satisfy consumers.



  • An example of a country whose laws and norms are hindering the global effort to slow population growth is Afghanistan. “The approval by Afghan President Hamid Karzai of the Shia Personal Status Law in March 2009 effectively destroyed Shia women’s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan. Under this law, women have no right to deny their husbands sex unless they are ill, and can be denied food if they do.”
  • Religious and ideological opposition to birth control has been cited as a factor contributing to overpopulation and poverty.



Human Overpopulation Effects & Problems

More humans means more consumption (of food, water, natural resources etc.), and more emissions (greenhouse gases, waste etc.).

It also means more production in the business and industrial sectors which are some of the biggest contributors to environmental and wildlife destruction. We are talking intensive agriculture, manufacturing, mining, textiles, construction and demolition and so on.

Some issues that are exacerbated by increase in population are:


  • Overpopulation can mean that if there are too many people in the same habitat, people are limiting available resources to survive.
  • Advocates of population moderation cite issues like quality of life, carrying capacity and risk of starvation as a basis to argue against continuing high human population growth and for population decline.
  • Scientists suggest that the human impact on the environment as a result of overpopulation, profligate consumption and proliferation of technology has pushed the planet into a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene.



  • Inadequate fresh water for drinking as well as sewage treatment and effluent discharge. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, use energy-expensive desalination to solve the problem of water shortages.
  • Depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels.
  • Increased levels of air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination and noise pollution.
  • Changes in atmospheric composition and consequent global warming.
  • Loss of arable land and increase in desertification. Deforestation and desertification can be reversed by adopting property rights, and this policy is successful even while the human population continues to grow.
  • Mass species extinctions and contracting biodiversity from reduced habitat in tropical forests due to slash-and-burn techniques that sometimes are practiced by shifting cultivators, especially in countries with rapidly expanding rural populations; present extinction rates may be as high as 140,000 species lost per year. As of February 2011, the IUCN Red List lists a total of 801 animal species having gone extinct during recorded human history, although the vast majority of extinctions are thought to be undocumented.
  • Biodiversity would continue to grow at an exponential rate if not for human influence. Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, told a parliamentary inquiry: “It is self-evident that the massive growth in the human population through the 20th century has had more impact on biodiversity than any other single factor.” Paul and Anne Ehrlich said population growth is one of the main drivers of the Earth’s extinction crisis.
  • The Yangtze River dolphin, Atlantic gray whale, West African black rhino, Merriam’s elk, California grizzly bear, silver trout, blue pike and dusky seaside sparrow are all victims of human overpopulation.
  • High infant and child mortality. High rates of infant mortality are associated with poverty. Rich countries with high population densities have low rates of infant mortality.
  • Intensive factory farming to support large populations. It results in human threats including the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria diseases, excessive air and water pollution, and new viruses that infect humans.
  • Increased chance of the emergence of new epidemics and pandemics. For many environmental and social reasons, including overcrowded living conditions, malnutrition and inadequate, inaccessible, or non-existent health care, the poor are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases.
  • Starvation, malnutrition or poor diet with ill health and diet-deficiency diseases (e.g. rickets). However, rich countries with high population densities do not have famine.
  • Poverty coupled with inflation in some regions and a resulting low level of capital formation. Poverty and inflation are aggravated by bad government and bad economic policies. Many countries with high population densities have eliminated absolute poverty and keep their inflation rates very low.
  • Low life expectancy in countries with fastest growing populations.
  • Unhygienic living conditions for many based upon water resource depletion, discharge of raw sewage and solid waste disposal. However, this problem can be reduced with the adoption of sewers. For example, after Karachi, Pakistan installed sewers, its infant mortality rate fell substantially.
  • Elevated crime rate due to drug cartels and increased theft by people stealing resources to survive.
  • Conflict over scarce resources and crowding, leading to increased levels of warfare.
  • Less personal freedom and more restrictive laws. Laws regulate and shape politics, economics, history and society and serve as a mediator of relations and interactions between people. The higher the population density, the more frequent such interactions become, and thus there develops a need for more laws and/or more restrictive laws to regulate these interactions and relations. It was even speculated by Aldous Huxley in 1958 that democracy is threatened due to overpopulation, and could give rise to totalitarian style governments.

The effects of overpopulation are compounded by overconsumption. According to Paul R. Ehrlich:

Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event … A world population of around a billion would have an overall pro-life effect. This could be supported for many millennia and sustain many more human lives in the long term compared with our current uncontrolled growth and prospect of sudden collapse … If everyone consumed resources at the US level – which is what the world aspires to – you will need another four or five Earths. We are wrecking our planet’s life support systems.



  • poverty and environmental degradation are some of the main effects
  • the world’s resources shrink
  • resources can be unevenly distributed (less resources means the available resources will go to those who can most afford it)
  • there is a declining ratio of food producers to food consumers
  • There are not enough resources or available land for many struggling individuals to survive
  •  there are too many people trying to fill a limited number of jobs within an area (labor price is diminished)
  • The most overpopulated cities tend to be in developing countries where poverty is rampant due to this overcrowding.
  • Even in developed countries, the cities listed deal with intense smog and pollution problems that exacerbate health and poverty issues.
  • In less developed regions, there is a higher death rate for children and adolescents. Unsanitary living conditions threaten survival rates. This is especially evident in urban areas where crowding is so common that slums have grown rapidly.



Potential Human Overpopulation Solutions & Strategies

It appears some of the major solutions are:

  • Improve overall quality of life
  • Reduce poverty
  • Increase availability of jobs
  • Increase the level and availability of education
  • Increase access to quality healthcare and contraception
  • Give the option for safe abortions
  • Focus on countries in particular with high fertility rates (above the replacement level)


Note that overpopulation is a slightly different issue to overconsumption.

One of the big alternatives to controlling population levels, is to change the way we consume i.e. consume less, consume more efficiently.

Inventing new technology to cater for increased population levels is another option.

Even if human quality of life is maintained with increasing population growth – there are still sub issues like social issues, environmental issues and wildlife issues that must be addressed.

All these issues and sub issues bridge and work in together.


  • Changes in lifestyle could reverse overpopulated status without a large population reduction.



  • The key thing you can do to reduce population growth is actually improve health.

– Bill Gates, via


  • In order to combat poverty in the most overpopulated cities, education and economic growth are critical.
  • By engaging the government to work with its community, the government will better understand which challenges should be addressed first.
  • Therefore, education, paired with improved living conditions in cities, will help ensure children are surviving into adulthood.
  • These are the key ingredients to overcoming poverty and environmental pollution in overpopulated urban areas.



Proposed solutions and ways to mitigate overpopulation related issues according to are:

  • Several solutions and mitigation measures have the potential to reduce overpopulation.
  • Some solutions are to be applied on a global planetary level (e.g., via UN resolutions), while some on a country or state government organization level, and some on a family or an individual level
  • Some of the proposed mitigations aim to help implement new social, cultural, behavioral and political norms to replace or significantly modify current norms.
  • For example, in societies like China, the government has put policies in place that regulate the number of children allowed to a couple.
  • Other societies have implemented social marketing strategies in order to educate the public on overpopulation effects. “The intervention can be widespread and done at a low cost. A variety of print materials (flyers, brochures, fact sheets, stickers) needs to be produced and distributed throughout the communities such as at local places of worship, sporting events, local food markets, schools and at car parks (taxis / bus stands).”
  • Such prompts work to introduce the problem so that new or modified social norms are easier to implement. Certain government policies are making it easier and more socially acceptable to use contraception and abortion methods.
  • Scientists and technologists including e.g. Huesemann, Huesemann, Ehrlich and Ehrlich caution that science and technology, as currently practiced, cannot solve the serious problems global human society faces, and that a cultural-social-political shift is needed to reorient science and technology in a more socially responsible and environmentally sustainable direction.

Reducing Overpopulation

  • Education and Empowerment…
  • One option is to focus on education about overpopulation, family planning, and birth control methods, and to make birth-control devices like male and female condoms, contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices easily available.
  • Worldwide, nearly 40% of pregnancies are unintended (some 80 million unintended pregnancies each year).
  • An estimated 350 million women in the poorest countries of the world either did not want their last child, do not want another child or want to space their pregnancies, but they lack access to information, affordable means and services to determine the size and spacing of their families.
  • In the United States, in 2001, almost half of pregnancies were unintended.
  • In the developing world, some 514,000 women die annually of complications from pregnancy and abortion, with 86% of these deaths occurring in the sub-Saharan Africa region and South Asia.
  • Additionally, 8 million infants die, many because of malnutrition or preventable diseases, especially from lack of access to clean drinking water.
  • Women’s rights and their reproductive rights in particular are issues regarded to have vital importance in the debate….wherever women are put in control of their lives, both politically and socially, where medical facilities allow them to deal with birth control and where their husbands allow them to make those decisions, birth rate falls. Women don’t want to have 12 kids of whom nine will die.
  • Egypt announced a program to reduce its overpopulation by family planning education and putting women in the workforce.
  • It was announced in June 2008 by the Minister of Health and Population, and the government has set aside 480 million Egyptian pounds (about $90 million US) for the program.
  • Several scientists (including e.g. Paul and Anne Ehrlich and Gretchen Daily) proposed that humanity should work at stabilizing its absolute numbers, as a starting point towards beginning the process of reducing the total numbers.
  • They suggested the following solutions and policies: following a small-family-size socio-cultural-behavioral norm worldwide (especially one-child-per-family ethos), and providing contraception to all along with proper education on its use and benefits (while providing access to safe, legal abortion as a backup to contraception), combined with a significantly more equitable distribution of resources globally.
  • Business magnate Ted Turner proposed a “voluntary, non-imposed” one-child-per-family cultural norm. A “pledge two or fewer” campaign is run by Population Matters (a UK population concern organisation), in which people are encouraged to limit themselves to small family size.
    • Greater and better access to contraception
    • Reducing infant mortality so that parents do not need to have many children to ensure at least some survive to adulthood.
    • Improving the status of women in order to facilitate a departure from traditional sexual division of labour.
    • One-Child and Two-Child policies, and other policies restricting or discouraging births directly.
    • Family planning
    • Creating small family “role models”
    • Tighter immigration restrictionsPopulation planning that is intended to reduce population size or growth rate may promote or enforce one or more of the following practices, although there are other methods as well:
  • The method(s) chosen can be strongly influenced by the cultural and religious beliefs of community members.
  • Birth Regulations…
  • Overpopulation can be mitigated by birth control; some nations, like the People’s Republic of China, use strict measures to reduce birth rates.
  • Sanjay Gandhi, son of late Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, implemented a forced sterilization programme between 1975 and 1977. Officially, men with two children or more had to submit to sterilization, but there was a greater focus on sterilizing women than sterilizing men. Some unmarried young men and political opponents may also have been sterilized. This program is still remembered and criticized in India, and is blamed for creating a public aversion to family planning, which hampered government programs for decades.
  • Urban designer Michael E. Arth has proposed a “choice-based, marketable birth license plan” he calls “birth credits”. Birth credits would allow any woman to have as many children as she wants, as long as she buys a license for any children beyond an average allotment that would result in zero population growth. If that allotment was determined to be one child, for example, then the first child would be free, and the market would determine what the license fee for each additional child would cost. Extra credits would expire after a certain time, so these credits could not be hoarded by speculators. The actual cost of the credits would only be a fraction of the actual cost of having and raising a child, so the credits would serve more as a wake-up call to women who might otherwise produce children without seriously considering the long term consequences to themselves or society.
  • Another choice-based approach, similar to Arth’s birth credits, is financial compensation or other benefits (free goods and/or services) by the state (or state-owned companies) offered to people who voluntarily undergo sterilization. Such compensation has been offered in the past by the government of India.
  • In 2014 the United Nations estimated there is an 80% likelihood that the world’s population will be between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100. Most of the world’s expected population increase will be in Africa and southern Asia. Africa’s population is expected to rise from the current one billion to four billion by 2100, and Asia could add another billion in the same period.
  • Because the median age of Africans is relatively low (e.g. in Uganda it is 15 years old) birth credits would have to limit fertility to one child per two women to reach the levels of developed countries immediately.
  • For countries with a wide base in their population pyramid it will take a generation for the people who are of child bearing age to have their families.
  • An example of demographic momentum is China, which added perhaps 400,000 more people after its one-child policy was enacted. Arth has suggested that the focus should be on the developed countries and that some combination of birth credits and additional compensation supplied by the developed countries could rapidly lead to zero population growth while also quickly raising the standard of living in developing countries.

Extraterrestrial Settlement & Space Colonisation

  • Various scientists and science fiction authors have contemplated that overpopulation on Earth may be remedied in the future by the use of extraterrestrial settlements.
  • In the 1970s, Gerard K. O’Neill suggested building space habitats that could support 30,000 times the carrying capacity of Earth using just the asteroid belt, and that the Solar System as a whole could sustain current population growth rates for a thousand years. Marshall Savage (1992, 1994) has projected a human population of five quintillion (5 x 1018) throughout the Solar System by 3000, with the majority in the asteroid belt.
  • Freeman Dyson (1999) favours the Kuiper belt as the future home of humanity, suggesting this could happen within a few centuries. In Mining the Sky, John S. Lewis suggests that the resources of the solar system could support 10 quadrillion (1016) people.
  • In an interview, Stephen Hawking claimed that overpopulation is a threat to human existence and “our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth but to spread out into space.”
  • K. Eric Drexler, famous inventor of the futuristic concept of molecular nanotechnology, has suggested in Engines of Creation that colonizing space will mean breaking the Malthusian limits to growth for the human species.
  • It may be possible for other parts of the Solar System to be inhabited by humanity at some point in the future.
  • Geoffrey Landis of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in particular has pointed out that “[at] cloud-top level, Venus is the paradise planet”, as one could construct aerostat habitats and floating cities there easily, based on the concept that breathable air is a lifting gas in the dense Venusian atmosphere. Venus would, like also Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, in the upper layers of their atmospheres, even afford a gravitation almost exactly as strong as that on Earth (see colonization of Venus).
  • Many science fiction authors, including Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, have argued that shipping any excess population into space is not a viable solution to human overpopulation. According to Clarke, “the population battle must be fought or won here on Earth”. The problem for these authors is not the lack of resources in space (as shown in books such as Mining the Sky), but the physical impracticality of shipping vast numbers of people into space to “solve” overpopulation on Earth. However, Gerard K. O’Neill’s calculations show that Earth could offload all new population growth with a launch services industry about the same size as the current airline industry.
  • The StarTram concept, by James R. Powell (the co-inventor of maglev transport) and others, envisions a capability to send up to 4 million people a decade to space per facility.
  • A hypothetical extraterrestrial colony could potentially grow by reproduction only (i.e., without any immigration), with all of the inhabitants being the direct descendants of the original colonists.


  • Despite the increase in population density within cities (and the emergence of megacities), UN Habitat states in its reports that urbanization may be the best compromise in the face of global population growth. Cities concentrate human activity within limited areas, limiting the breadth of environmental damage. But this mitigating influence can only be achieved if urban planning is significantly improved and city services are properly maintained.



  • More than 200 million women in developing countries are sexually active without effective modern contraception even though they do not want to be pregnant anytime soon, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group. By the best estimates, some 80 million pregnancies around the world are unintended. Although the numbers aren’t strictly comparable—many unplanned pregnancies end in abortion—the unintended pregnancies exceed the 78 million by which world population grows every year.
  • In the U.S., which is well informed and spends nearly 20 cents per dollar of economic activity on health care, nearly one out of every two pregnancies is unintended. That proportion has not changed much for decades. In every nation, rich and poor, in which a choice of contraceptives is available and is backed up by reasonably accessible safe abortion for when contraception fails, women have two or fewer children.
  • Educating girls reduces birthrates.
  • Worldwide, according to a calculation provided for this article by demographers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, women with no schooling have an average of 4.5 children, whereas those with a few years of primary school have just three.
  • Women who complete one or two years of secondary school have an average of 1.9 children apiece—a figure that over time leads to a decreasing population.
  • With one or two years of college, the average childbearing rate falls even further, to 1.7.
  • And when women enter the workforce, start businesses, inherit assets and otherwise interact with men on an equal footing, their desire for more than a couple of children fades even more dramatically.
  • Most of the drop in Chinese fertility occurred … as the government brought women by the millions into farm and industry collectives and provided them with the family planning they needed to stay on the job. Many developing countries—from Thailand and Colombia to Iran—have experienced comparable declines in family size by getting better family-planning services and educational opportunities to more women and girls in more places.



Top 20 Countries With Largest Populations In Total People

As of September 2018, these are the top 20 largest population countries:

  1. China – 1,416,221,148
  2. India –  1,357,226,853
  3. USA – 327,258,161
  4. Indonesia – 267,393,413
  5. Brazil – 211,204,519
  6. Pakistan – 201,628,675
  7. Nigeria – 196,949,995
  8. Bangladesh – 166,730,612
  9. Russia – 143,959,398
  10. Mexico – 131,100,059
  11. Japan – 127,121,981
  12. Ethiopia – 108,089,628
  13. Phillipines  – 106,853,251
  14. Egypt – 99,766,661
  15. Vietnam – 96,693,923
  16. Democratic Republic Of The Congo – 84,581,357
  17. Germany – 82,331,523
  18. Iran – 82,192,940
  19. Turkey  – 82,167,606
  20. Thailand – 69,214,108



Past, Current & Future World Population Stats & Forecasts/Projections, Including Population Growth

You can see past, current and future world population stats and forecasts here:

  • – countries with biggest population by 2060
  • – most populous cities by 2100


The world’s population will rise from just over 7 billion in 2012 to nearly 9.6 billion by 2050



  • The world population is currently growing by approximately 74 million people per year. Current United Nations predictions estimate that the world population will reach 9.0 billion around 2050, assuming a decrease in average fertility rate from 2.5 down to 2.0.
  • Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions, where today’s 5.3 billion population of underdeveloped countries is expected to increase to 7.8 billion in 2050. By contrast, the population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion. An exception is the United States population, which is expected to increase by 44% from 2008 to 2050.



Fertility Rates, & Replacement Level Rates

“Replacement level fertility” is the total fertility rate—the average number of children born per woman—at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration.

This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, although it may modestly vary with mortality rates.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the exception to this fertility trend. Its total fertility rate was 5.4 during the 2005–10 period― double that of any other region―and is projected to decline only to 3.2 by 2050. These expected reductions in fertility rates reflect expectations of increasing urbanization, expected declines in child mortality, and increases in income, among other factors.



The birth rates by country development level are:

  • World – 2.5
  • More Developed – 1.7
  • Less Developed – 2.6
  • Least Developed – 4.3

– UNFPA, via


Carrying Capacity

Carrying capacity refers to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations. The carrying capacity for any given area is not fixed.

It can be altered by improved technology, but mostly it is changed for the worse by pressures which accompany a population increase. As the environment is degraded, carrying capacity actually shrinks, leaving the environment no longer able to support even the number of people who could formerly have lived in the area on a sustainable basis.

No population can live beyond the environment’s carrying capacity for very long.

We must think in terms of “carrying capacity” not land area. The effects of unfettered population growth drastically reduce the carrying capacity in the United States.



Countries With The Worst Human, Wildlife & Environmental Issues

Rather than looking at overall population numbers – instead, look at whether the population has enough resources to meet demand, look at quality of life indicators, and look at population effect on humans, wildlife and the environment.

Also look at human density (also called overcrowding) – number of people per square mile in that city.

10 of the most overcrowded cities in the world in 2017 based on number of people per square mile are:

  • 1. Dhaka, Bangladesh – 16,235,000 total people, and 114,300 per square mile
  • 2. Hyderabad, Pakistan – 2,990,000 total people, and 106,800 per square mile
  • 3. Vijayawada, India – 1,775,000 total people, and 80,700 per square mile
  • 4. Chittagong, Bangladesh –  3,250,000 total people, and 75,600 per square mile
  • 5. Mumbai, India – 22,885,000 total people, and 67,300 per square mile
  • 6. Hong Kong, – 7,280,000 total people, and 66,200 per square mile
  • 7. Aligarh, India – 1,050,000 total people, and 65,600 per square mile
  • 8. Macau – 655,000 total people, and 65,500 per square mile
  • 9. Hama, Syria – 1,300,000 total people, and 65,000 per square mile
  • 10. Mogadishu, Somalia – 2,265,000 total people, and 64,700 per square mile



There is also a list of the fastest growing cities in the world –


Overpopulation In Developing vs Developed Countries

It’s quite clear from the above information that overpopulation occurs at different rates, and has different results in developing vs developed countries.












10. – most populous cities by 2100







Waste Pollution: Causes, Sources, Effects & Solutions

Waste Pollution: Causes, Sources, Effects & Solutions

Waste pollution as an issue is massively wide ranging, and can be difficult to fully measure.

It involves looking at waste generation and waste management (which involves collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste together with monitoring and regulation) of all the different types of natural and man made waste.

Although there are many different types of waste, there are still key ways we can track different key wastes and the issues and impacts relating to them.

In this guide we look at the types of waste, what waste pollution is, causes, sources of waste, effects of waste pollution, and potential solutions.

(Note – you can read specifically about plastic waste pollution in this guide)


Waste Pollution – Summary

  • There’s many different types of waste, and each country, state and city/town (or region) faces a different picture when it comes to waste generation, waste management, and the waste lifecycle
  • Waste can be categorized by municipal waste, and industrial waste (which includes commercial waste)
  • Waste can also be categorized by sector, by type, by material and many types of specific or specialised waste
  • Municipal and household waste is generally far easier to track and report than industrial waste, and as a society, it’s estimated industrial waste far outweighs municipal waste amounts per year (some numbers indicate municipal waste only makes up around 3% of total waste, compared to industrial at 97%)
  • In general, it can be difficult to accurately track and report waste in a lot of countries for various reasons
  • Paper, food, yard trimmings, plastics, metals, wood and textiles tend to be the most common municipal waste according to EPA numbers
  • The most common industrial waste according to some sources are construction, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, households, waste treatment, services and energy supply
  • Although some waste might be far less common in terms of quantity, some waste are highly hazardous and have potential for a lot of damage – so quantity of uncontained waste, as well as the damage of each type of waste should be reported or measured (poorly treated or contained radioactive waste is one example)
  • With plastic in particular, there’s different types of plastic – single use plastic packaging can be wasted at a far high rate than say some construction plastics which can be used for years or decades
  • The most common waste found in oceans according to some sources are cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, straws and stirrers, plastic bags, grocery bags, glass beverage bottles, beverage cans, and plastic cups and plates. Plastics found in fishing nets and lines also make up a % of ocean plastic waste and general waste
  • Some of the main waste disposal or management options are landfill, recycling and incineration (pyrolysis and gasification are examples of other waste management processes that involve heat), with compost being another
  • Developed countries produce the most waste, but tend to manage and contain it better than developing, or low to middle income countries
  • Waste pollution occurs for various reasons, including but not limited to over-consumption, a complete lack of waste management systems in low to middle income countries, poorly contained or ineffective waste management systems, not recycling or composting enough, wasting too much food at the consumer stage, a lack of cold storage for food in poorer regions in the world, littering, improper disposal or sorting of waste by residents and businesses or the industrial sector, and using the wrong waste disposal method or a less eco friendly/sustainable disposal method for a particular type of waste
  • We can reduce waste pollution via reducing our waste, re-using and repairing items we throw out, recycling, upgrading and improving the effectiveness of waste management and containment systems especially in low to middle income countries, having harsher penalties for littering and improper disposal of waste, having a strong focus on industrial waste and the proper disposal and management of industrial waste, and becoming really clear as a society on the types of waste we should be producing and the best ways to dispose of or manage that waste
  • It makes sense that the most significant positive results seen in waste pollution worldwide might be to reduce waste/have a more circular economy, improve effectiveness and containment of low to middle income countries’ waste management systems, focus heavily on getting industrial waste management systems and disposal right and reporting on them more clearly (as they make up such a large % of overall waste, and becoming very clear in each city what the best overall waste management option is for each type of material (landfill, recycling, incineration, compost or other)
  • Waste management systems tend to be specific to a city i.e. San Francisco’s waste management system is very different to a waste management system in New Delhi for example
  • Overall, some questions each city might ask themselves about waste management are which sectors produce the most waste, which materials are most common, what are the most damaging wastes, and what are the social, economic, and environmental consequences of pursuing different waste management options
  • Waste management is very important for a city to get right – each national, state and local government must work with private or commercial waste management companies to come up with long term waste management solutions and strategies that suit them across all areas of society (environmental, economic, social, technological and so on). 


What Is Waste?

Waste (or wastes) are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or is worthless, defective and of no use.



Types Of Waste

Waste can be categorised in many different ways.

The main two are Municipal Waste – which is essentially waste that comes from our households (food, paper, plastic, yard trimmings etc.). The municipalities are responsible for collection and disposal of municipal waste.

And, Industrial Waste – which is waste from businesses, factories, farms etc. that never reaches the consumer or household level.

Examples are mining (rubble, topsoil), agriculture (fertilisers, pesticides, animal waste), food processing (plastics, paper, food waste), textiles, metal manufacture, and construction and demolition wastes (plasterboard, bricks, concrete etc.).

Usually, licensed waste disposal companies (through EPA approved waste disposal programs for example in the USA) are responsible for collecting and disposing of waste from companies.

You can read more about industrial waste on, and

Other ways waste might be categorised (apart from municipal and industrial) are:

  • By Sector – mining, agriculture, manufacturing, municipal etc.
  • By Type – liquid, solid, organic, recyclable and hazardous (according to
  • Material – plastic, paper, e waste, chemicals etc.

Note though that different authorities and organisations count and report different types of waste.

So, always look at what specific waste materials and waste types of waste report is including to get an idea of how broad or narrow the stats are.

For example, if you look at the Australian National Waste Report prepared by Blue Environment for the Department of Environment and Energy, their scope of reporting includes:

  • The report covers waste generated in Australia, including solid non-hazardous materials and all hazardous wastes including liquids (an accompanying report, Hazardous Waste in Australia 20172 , considers hazardous waste in detail).
  • The report excludes waste from primary production activities (agriculture, mining and forestry), waste that is reused (such as in ‘tip shops’), pre-consumer waste that is recycled as part of a production process, and clean fill/soil (whether or not it is sent to landfill).
  • Waste sources are considered in three streams: municipal solid waste (MSW) from households and council operations; commercial and industrial (C&I) waste; and construction and demolition (C&D) waste.


A further list of specific wastes to be aware of are:

  • Agricultural waste
  • Animal by-products
  • Biodegradable waste
  • Biomedical waste
  • Bulky waste
  • Business waste
  • Chemical waste
  • Clinical waste
  • Coffee wastewater
  • Commercial waste
  • Composite waste
  • Construction and demolition waste (C&D waste)
  • Consumable waste
  • Controlled waste
  • Demolition waste
  • Dog waste
  • Domestic waste
  • Electronic waste (e-waste)
  • Food waste
  • Gaseous wastes
  • Green waste
  • Grey water
  • Hazardous waste
  • Household waste
    • Household hazardous waste
  • Human waste
    • Sewage sludge
  • Industrial waste
    • Slag
    • Fly ash
    • Sludge
  • Inert waste
  • Inorganic waste
  • Kitchen waste
  • Litter
  • Liquid waste
  • Marine debris
  • Medical waste
  • Metabolic waste
  • Mineral waste
  • Mixed waste
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Nuclear waste (see Radioactive waste)
  • Organic waste
  • Packaging waste
  • Post-consumer waste
  • Radioactive waste
    • Low level waste
    • High level waste
    • Mixed waste (radioactive/hazardous)
    • Spent nuclear fuel
  • Recyclable waste
  • Residual waste
  • Retail hazardous waste
  • Sewage
  • Sharps waste
  • Ship disposal
  • Slaughterhouse waste
  • Special waste – see hazardous waste



Domestic/Municipal Waste vs Industrial Waste

While the U.S. produces around 236 million tons of municipal solid waste every year, the numbers for industrial waste are far less clear.

Some estimates [for industrial waste] go as high as 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste produced every year.



It’s important to note that most reported waste stats out there are municipal waste only (such as the numbers you see in the EPA MSW report).

The reason for this is that it’s very difficult to track and report industrial waste simply because it comes from so many sources, is so varied and spread out, and there is no one system to catch, process and report all this waste.

Based on the above numbers, municipal waste (household waste) may only male up 3% of total waste, compared to industrial waste at around 97% of total waste. has a good article on the 97-3% municipal vs industrial ratio at


Other sources that write about industrial waste (and commercial waste) are:

  • – plastic generation by the industrial sector


Problems With Reporting & Estimating Waste

There are many issues that surround reporting waste in general, and from country to country.

It is most commonly measured by size or weight, and there is a stark difference between the two. For example, organic waste is much heavier when it is wet, and plastic or glass bottles can have different weights but be the same size.

On a global scale it is difficult to report waste because countries have different definitions of waste and what falls into waste categories, as well as different ways of reporting.

Based on incomplete reports from its parties, the Basel Convention estimated 338 million tonnes of waste was generated in 2001.

For the same year, OECD estimated 4 billion tonnes from its member countries. Despite these inconsistencies, waste reporting is still useful on a small and large scale to determine key causes and locations, and to find ways of preventing, minimizing, recovering, treating, and disposing waste.



What Is Waste Pollution?

Waste pollution is when waste (mainly human generated waste) harms or affects humans, animals, the natural environment (by soil contamination, air pollution, water pollution etc.), the economy, or has some other form of social consequence (even as far as disrupting aesthetics).

Waste pollution differs from country to country, and from state to state.


Causes Of Waste Pollution

There can be several causes of waste pollution. Just a fe of the main causes might be:

  • We use too much and don’t reduce, re-use and recycle enough as countries and societies
  • No one waste disposal method is perfect – all three of recycling, landfill and incineration have their environmental and social drawbacks
  • Not enough municipal and industrial waste is recycled and re-used
  • Littering – dropping plastic on the ground where it can be picked up or swallowed by animals, or blow into water sources
  • Inadequate disposal of waste – disposing of waste in the wrong way, not sorting wastes properly
  • Not treating and disposing of hazardous and toxic wastes properly – like pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, solvents, medical and biological wastes etc.
  • Disposing of waste to an unsecured landfill site where it can be carried away by wind or water or animals
  • Burning waste and producing harmful gases
  • The waste itself producing methane, leachate or other forms of pollution by decomposition or by sitting in a landfill
  • Moving of waste from developed nations to developing nations, or between countries in general, and affecting the humans, animals or environment in the receiving country


Sources Of Waste Pollution

There’s a number of ways sources of pollution could be defined or categorised.

But, sources could be divided into the overall waste sector (municipal, or industrial), and then looking at the industries or waste types or waste products that contribute the highest quantity or highest share of waste.

A few examples of sources might be:


Municipal/Household Waste

Most common Municipal Solid Waste generated in 2015 was:

  • Paper and paperboard – 25.9%
  • Food – 15.1%
  • Yard Trimmings – 13.2%
  • Plastics – 13.1%
  • Metals – 9.1%
  • Wood – 6.2%
  • Textiles – 6.1%
  • Glass – 4.4%
  • Rubber and Leather – 3.2%
  • Other – 2.0%
  • Miscellaneous Inorganic Waste –  1.5%

The total generation of municipal solid waste in 2015 was 262.4 million tons (U.S. short tons, unless specified) of MSW in 2015, approximately 3.5 million tons more than the amount generated in 2014. MSW generated in 2015 increased to 4.48 pounds per person per day. This is an increase from the 259 million tons generated in 2014 and the 208.3 million tons in 1990.



In 2009, the City of Chicago had the following split:

  • Paper – 29.5%
  • Organics – 29%
  • Plastic – 12.5%
  • Private Construction & Demolition – 12%
  • Textiles – 6.2%
  • Glass – 4.9%
  • Metals – 3.9%
  • Inorganics – 1.1%
  • Water Bottles & Coated Milk Cartons – 0.8%



Industrial Waste

Industrial waste is hard to measure and report. But, there are some sources that report industrial waste:

Waste generation in EU-28 in 2012 by sector was:

  • Construction – 33%
  • Mining & Quarrying – 29%
  • Manufacturing – 11%
  • Households – 8%
  • Waste Treatment – 7%
  • Services – 5%
  • Energy Supply – 4%
  • Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing – 2%
  • Wholesale Of Waste & Scrap – 1%
  • Water Treatment – 1%



Estimated Total Annual Waste by Sector in the UK in 2004 was:

  • Construction & Demolition – 31.7%
  • Mining & Quarrying – 28.8%
  • Industrial – 12.5%
  • Commercial –  12.3%
  • Household – 9.5%
  • Dredged Materials – 4.7%
  • Sewage Sludge – 0.6%
  • Agriculture (inc. Fishing) – 0.2%



In 2009, the City of Chicago generated the following %’s of waste from these sectors:

  • Construction & Demolition Debris – 59%
  • Private Industrial, Commercial, Institutional & Multi Unit Residential – 26%
  • Residential With 4 Units Or Less – 15%



In 2008, total waste generation in the EU-27 by sector was

  • Construction – 32.9%
  • Mining – 27.8%
  • Manufacturing – 13.1%
  • Household – 8.5%
  • Waste & Water Management – 7.3%
  • Other Sectors – 5.3%
  • Energy Sector – 3.5%
  • Agriculture/Forestry – 1.7%

In 2008, total waste generation in the EU-27 by type of waste/waste material was:

  • Mineral Waste/Soils – 65%
  • Household Wastes – 7.7%
  • Other Wastes – 6.5%
  • Combustion Wastes – 6%
  • Animal and Vegetable Waste – 4.4%
  • Metallic Wastes – 3.8%
  • Wood Wastes – 2.6%
  • Paper and Cardboard Wastes – 2.2%
  • Sorting Residues – 1.7%



In 2015-15, Australia produced the equivalent of:

  • 565 kg per capita of municipal waste,
  • 831 kg of construction and demolition waste,
  • 459 kg of fly ash,
  • and 849 kg of other commercial and industrial waste.



The EPA in Ireland also keeps stats on municipal, packaging, electrical and electronic equipment, end of life vehicles, tyres, hazardous materials, composting and anaerobic waste, construction and demolition, waste infrastructure and generation and treatment



Most Common Rubbish Found In The Oceans

Note that not all waste ends up in landfills, incineration, recycling or composting.

Some of it ends up in the ocean. Waste generated 50km or less from the coat line is most likely to end up in the ocean.

The most common items collected in ocean clean ups are (according to general reporting):

  • Cigarette Butts – 2,248,065
  • Food Wrappers (candy, chips, chocolate etc) – 1,376,133
  • Plastic Beverage Bottles – 988,965
  • Plastic Bottle Caps – 811,871
  • Straws & Stirrers – 519,911
  • Other Plastic Bags – 489,968
  • Grocery Bags (Plastic) – 485,204
  • Glass Beverage Bottles – 396,121
  • Beverage Cans – 382,608
  • Plastic Cups & Plates – 376,479

Trash, packaging, and improperly disposed waste from sources on land accounts for 80% of the marine debris found on beaches during cleanups and surveys.

Furthermore, one-third to two-thirds of the debris we catalog on beaches comes from single-use, disposable plastic packaging from food and beverage-related goods and services (things like plastic cups, bottles, straws, utensils, and stirrers).

The other 20% (one-fifth) of items making up marine debris are attributed to at-sea losses from accidental or deliberate discharges from ocean-going vessels, and from lost or abandoned fishing gear and traps.



Waste Disposal

  • Overall, not all waste is disposed of adequately – littering and mismanaged waste still occurs
  • Not all waste, particularly industrial waste is recycled when it should be
  • The main forms of waste disposal are recycling, landfill and incineration (with energy capture). Composting is another form of waste disposal, although more minor at this stage.
  • Household waste is usually collected by municipalities
  • Industrial waste is usually collected by licensed waste contractors (usually licensed or approved as part of a program by a country’s or states’ EPA or environmental government agency)
  • Hazardous waste, toxic waste and other specific wastes have to be treated and disposed of in different ways to general solid waste


When we talk about waste management or waste disposal, we are talking about all the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal. This includes amongst other things collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste together with monitoring and regulation. It also encompasses the legal and regulatory framework that relates to waste management encompassing guidance on recycling.



In 2015, these are the disposal stats for Municipal Solid Waste in the US:

  • 52.5% went to Landfill
  • 25.8% went to recycling
  • 12.8% went to Combustion with Energy Recovery
  • and 8.9% went to Composting



In 2014-15, Australia had the following waste stats:

  • 64 Megatonnes of waste generated
  • 35 Megatonnes went to recycling
  • 27 Megatonnes went to landfill
  • 2.3 Megatonnes went to energy recovery, which is burning waste and capturing the gas energy



Specifically for global plastic waste disposal:

  • In 2015, an estimated 55 percent of global plastic waste was discarded, 25 percent was incinerated, and 20 percent recycled.
  • If we extrapolate historical trends through to 2050 — by 2050, incineration rates would increase to 50 percent; recycling to 44 percent; and discarded waste would fall to 6 percent. However, note that this is based on the simplistic extrapolation of historic trends and does not represent concrete projections.



Sources that talk specifically about industrial waste management include:



Waste By Country

When looking at waste by country, it’s important to look at:

  • Total waste
  • Waste per capita
  • And then what happens with that waste – is it recycled, or dumped, or incinerated? How much waste pollution occurs via waste generation in that country?

All countries have different waste stats and behavior patterns, and even ways of reporting their waste statistics.


Developing vs Developed Countries

  • Developed countries produce more waste per capita because they have higher levels of consumption. There are higher proportions of plastics, metals, and paper in the municipal solid waste stream and there are higher labour costs. As countries continue developing, there is a reduction in biological solid waste and ash. Per capita waste generation in OECD countries has increased by 14% since 1990, and 35% since 1980. Waste generation generally grows at a rate slightly lower than GDP in these countries. Developed countries consume more than 60% of the world industrial raw materials and only comprise 22% of the world’s population. As a nation, Americans generate more waste than any other nation in the world with 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg) of municipal solid waste (MSW) per person per day, fifty five percent of which is contributed as residential garbage.
  • Developing nations produce lower levels of waste per capita with a higher proportion of organic material in the municipal solid waste stream. If measured by weight, organic (biodegradable) residue constitutes at least 50% of waste in developing countries. Labour costs are relatively low but waste management is generally a higher proportion of municipal expenditure. As urbanization continues, municipal solid waste grows faster than urban populations because of increasing consumption and shortening product life spans.



  • Compared to those in developed nations, residents in developing countries, especially the urban poor, are more severely impacted by unsustainably managed waste. In low and middle-income countries, waste is often disposed in unregulated dumps or openly burned. These practices create serious health, safety, and environmental consequences. Poorly managed waste serves as a breeding ground for disease vectors, contributes to global climate change through methane generation, and even promotes urban violence.
  • Managing waste properly is essential for building sustainable and livable cities, but it remains a challenge for many developing countries and cities. Effective waste management is expensive, often comprising 20%–50% of municipal budgets. Operating this essential municipal service requires integrated systems that are efficient, sustainable, and socially supported.



Waste By Country

OECD countries (the most developed countries in the world, produce a lot of the waste int he world.

These are 2013 figures of municipal waste generation per capita in some of the top waste generating countries in the OECD group:

  • Denmark – 751kg (per person)
  • United States – 725kg
  • Switzerland – 712kg
  • Australia – 647kg
  • Germany – 614kg
  • Ireland – 587kg
  • France – 530kg
  • Netherlands – 525kg
  • United Kingdom – 494kg
  • Italy – 484kg
  • Spain – 455kg
  • Turkey – 407kg
  • Canada – 403kg
  • South Korea – 358kg
  • Japan – 354kg

–, and


You can see a full world map showing waste per capita levels by country at

You can see a description of some of this information at

Some of what they said is:

The top producers of waste are said to be small and island nations including:

  • Kuwait
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Guyana
  • Sri Lanka

According to eC02 Greetings, in places such as Antigua, Barbados and St. Kitts, a large majority of waste is accumulated due to tourism. It added that of these countries do not have the necessary infrastructure for proper sanitation and waste removal.

The top producers in the developed world were said to be:

  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • United States



Waste By Region

Waste generation by region %’s are:

  • OECD region – 44%
  • East Asia & The Pacific – 21%
  • Latin America & The Caribbean – 12%
  • Eastern & Central Asia – 7%
  • Middle East & North Africa – 6%
  • South Asia – 5%
  • Africa – 5%



Overall, Worldbank found:

  • MSW (municipal solid waste) generation levels are expected to double by 2025 (due to population growth)
  • The higher the income level and rate of urbanization, the greater the amount of solid waste produced.
  • OECD countries produce almost half of the world’s waste, while Africa and South Asia regions produce the least waste.



You can read more in Worldbank’s Waste Generation chapter of their knowledge paper at


Exporting & Importing Of Waste

Waste is shipped between countries for disposal and this can create problems in the target country.

As an example, electronic waste is commonly shipped to developing countries for recycling, reuse or disposal. The Basel Convention is a Multilateral Environmental Agreement to prevent problematic waste disposal in countries that have weaker environmental protection laws. The Convention has not prevented the formation of e-waste villages.



Developing countries can suffer environmentally, but also their people and wildlife can suffer from importing waste.


China is an example of a country that used to accept a lot of the world’s waste and plastic, but has recently put in place import bans to stop some or most of the plastic importation.


Effects Of Waste Pollution (& Problems)

The effects of waste generation and ultimately waste disposal are extremely wide ranging.

Waste can have the following main effects:

  • Environmental – land, water and air (troposphere and atmosphere)
  • Humans – health and mortality
  • Economy – cost, poverty
  • Wildlife – health and mortality


Different wastes will have different levels of impact, for example:

  • Hazardous and toxic waste can be extremely damaging based on contact or leaching or seeping (e waste, chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides etc.)
  • A more common waste like plastic might not be as damaging to touch, but can be devastating via ingestion and entanglement for example


You can read a full breakdown of the pros and cons of each waste disposal method – recycling, landfill and incineration at


Waste generally affects developing countries significantly as they may not have the finances to maintain waste management facilities, and the poorest people have to live among the and near the waste pollution.


Other effects and impact of waste include:

  • Attracts rodents, parasites, diseases and bacteria
  • Expose animals and humans to hazardous materials – can cause cancer for example
  • Can pollute water
  • Can contaminate soil via leachate and hazardous waste
  • Can pollute air with methane, and contribute to climate change and global warming
  • Toxic waste materials can contaminate surface water, groundwater, soil, and air which causes more problems for humans, other species, and ecosystems.
  • Developing nations who can’t afford properly managed and secured waste disposal facilities suffer – the poor who live near the dumping sites, or who have no dumping sites, have to live in the waste
  • The economic costs of managing waste are high, and are often paid for by municipal governments



  • Man-made wastes are more hazardous to the environment. Cell phone, for instance are made of lead, mercury and plastic and so many millions of them get thrown as garbage. This kind of electronic garbage creates environmental problems.
  • E waste is an issue such as the harmful effects of the fire retardant being used to protect PCs and electronic appliances against fire.
  • mercury will leach when certain electronic devices, such as circuit breakers are destroyed.
  • Batteries are an environmental hazard. The acid leaches not only into the soil but also goes into the ground water. Disposing of them also creates their own problems as the lead is likely to remain in the ash and be released in the air.



  • Chemicals contaminating soil – When waste ends up at the landfill, chemicals in the trash can leech out into the soil, contaminating it. This will hurt plants, along with animals and even humans who come into contact with the soil. Once polluted, contaminated soil can be very hard to clean, and will likely have to be dug up to clear the area.
  • Surface water – Chemicals don’t just run from garbage into the soil. They can also reach nearby surface water, such as rivers and lakes. This will change the levels of chemicals in the water for the worse. The result? The ecosystems such as fish habitats in the water get hurt, as do any creatures that drink from the water source
  • Air pollution – Garbage can create air pollution due to gasses and chemicals evaporating from the waste. This air pollution can occur in open-air dumps, where a lot of our waste and electronic trash goes, and through incinerators used at garbage disposal sites. The air pollution from incineration can be so bad, in fact, that it can even release toxic substances that can contribute to acid rain. Other garbage will release methane as it wastes away, and methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming – and can also be ignited to cause an explosion.



  • Pollution – If a landfill site is not properly sealed, a toxic pollutant known as leachate can escape into the surrounding groundwater causing environmental problems for plants and animals living downstream. Leachate is a liquid pollutant caused by waste breaking down that contains high levels of heavy metals, chemical compounds, pesticides and solvents which filter down into the bottom of a landfill site. Many modern landfills created today have a sealed barrier to prevent liquid pollution from entering groundwater, however the growing level of waste generation can increase the risk of leachate pollution.
  • Litter – Lightweight materials like plastic bags and film (such as lolly/chip wrappers) can easily be dispersed from rubbish bins and landfill into the surrounding environment by the wind and rain. Much of this lightweight material presents a range of hazards for wildlife and domestic animals who can become entangled or choke if they accidentally mistake litter for food. The chemical composition of plastic means that it takes a substantial period of time to break down in the environment, and is capable of travelling long distances without decomposing. Around 80% of plastic litter found in the ocean has travelled there from inland waterways. Oceanic currents have directed much of this material to a litter-made island in the mid Atlantic Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Items as large as computer monitors and tyres, as well as plastic twine, bottles and other material have been found here from across the world.
  • Loss of biodiversity – Demand for new landfill sites results in the clearing of large amounts of vegetation and alterations to the natural environment. This can displace hundreds and thousands of species (both plants and animals) which live in the surrounding habitat. Over time, excessive land clearing can result in the extinction of many of these species, and a significant loss of biodiversity.
  • Pests – Once the natural habitat has been removed by land clearing, many native species may no longer be able to compete with non-native species such as weeds, vermin, flies and rats. Unlike native species, these pests can often live on a vast variety of food sources and are better adapted to live on these landfill sites. As a result, foreign species such as rats, ibis, feral cats and dogs thrive in landfill areas on rotting food sources.



  • Waste products create air, water and soil pollution/contamination
  • Economic – a lot of money is spent to counter the effects of improper waste management and waste management in general
  • Oil spills create water pollution
  • Leaching of chemicals into soil and water creates pollution
  • Burning of any disposed waste and plastic materials results in air and environmental pollution.
  • Though we all are familiar with common methods of waste management like landfills, incineration, recycling, biological processing or energy conservation; we find ourselves living in a world filled with waste. Renewable energy and recycling took us to newer heights, but the adverse effects of improper waste management continue to plague us.
  • Waste management and soil contamination – contamination results when hazardous substances are spilled or buried in the soil. It can also occur when pollutants settle on the soil, such as chemicals or industrial smokestack. Plants in contaminated soil absorb hazardous substances. Humans or animals ingest these plants and may get sick. They can also inhale soil contaminants through dust that is present in the air or absorb these hazardous chemicals through their skin.
  • Water pollution, especially groundwater – heavy metal, pesticides, nitrates, petro chemicals, chlorinated solvents all have ability to seep into soil and ground water and rivers and lakes. Crops can absorb toxic chemicals. Soil fertility can decrease and crop yield can decrease. Fluoride, arsenic and salts can also seep into lakes. 97% of the world’s freshwater is in auqifers/groundwater. 1.5 billion people worldwide rely on groundwater for drinking water. Groundwater is also used for irrigation and even to makes bottled water.
  • Plastic water bottles eventually break down to release a harmful component called, DIETHYLHYDROXYLAMINE (DEHA). (A carcinogen which hurts our reproductive capabilities, causes liver dysfunction and weight loss issues.)
  • DEHA seeps into the surrounding areas of the soil and water bodies to harm the animal and plant life depends on it.
  • Water easily absorbs chemicals and toxic substances in rainfall, air, soil and other water sources. This damages the water source, animals and humans
  • greenhouse gases are created from decomposing waste which contribute to climate change. How else are we impacted? Well, apart from temperature what is also drastically affected is the level of precipitation in the air. From acid rain to severe hail storms or global warming – everything is fair game at present. This also spreads out into other areas with regards to subdivisions such as thermal and radioactive pollution.
  • Incineration and landfill both create harmful gases.
  • continual dumping of garbage, raw or untreated sewage. Any animal or marine life coming in contact gets impacted in the worst of ways. The inevitable formation of algal bloom and clusters contaminates and eventually suffocates marine life such as coral and fish.
  • consumption of fishing lines, cigarette butts, plastic bottles and Styrofoam can kill millions of marine lives each year.
  • Waste is dumped into the ground, Absorbed by the soil and groundwater, Waste contaminates the land on which we grow food and provides water for us and animals, Waste in the marine life kills fish, Carcasses float on the surface, and we see mosquitoes feed on it, The diseases carrying mosquitoes now spread sickness and death among the living population
  • People who live near landfills, waste disposal workers and people who come into contact with hazardous waste at manufacturing plants and on farms are at risk
  • Think about the fires at landfills and its effects on us. Whether coming from the air or its accumulation in our cellars, those landfill gases have been exposed for causing cancer, create respiratory and visibility problems, and the explosion of cans put people nearby at constant risk.
  • Additionally, when we come in contact with waste, it causes skin irritation and blood infections.  We also contract diseases from flies which are carriers of illnesses after breeding on solid waste. With regards to mosquitoes, we know, besides feeding on dead fish, they find sewage, rainwater, tires, cans and other objects to be ideal breeding grounds. They carry and spread diseases such as malaria and dengue. With an abundance of disease-carrying pests, it becomes difficult to be vigilant about waste management facilities. Despite all efforts, for example, rats continue their massive infestation on such facilities and sewage systems. They harm crops, spread diseases such as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Leptospirosis, Rat-bite Fever and Salmonellosis. Waste management is our responsibility for we benefit and suffer from it in radical ways. Education and awareness across all communities, irrespective of their social, economic condition, must be ever-present for as long as life inhabits this planet. A butterfly fluttering its wings 900 miles away from you can cause a hurricane right where you live. Therefore, significant mismanagement of waste by Turkey and Chile, where only 1% of waste was reported to be recycled, can contribute to global warming. Even if you live far away in Greenland, there is no escape. We must all play a role.



Other resources on problems and effects of waste pollution are:



Trends & Stats On Waste Generation & Disposal

You can find more MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) waste generation trends at:


You can find more MSW waste disposal trends at:


You can find plastic disposal trends at:


You can find Australia’s waste trends in:


You can find more on industrial waste trends at:



More stats and trends on waste are available at:



Forecast For Waste Generation

Population growth, urban expansion and other factors look to increase waste generation rates in the future. However, variables such as waste reduction efforts, hitting peak population and population decline, and other variables may impact the rate of waste generation going into the future.


  • Around the world, waste generation rates are rising. In 2012, the world’s cities generated 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste per year, amounting to a footprint of 1.2 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanization, municipal waste generation is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025.
  • Solid waste generation rates are rising fast, on pace to exceed 11 million tonnes per day by 2100. That growth will eventually peak and begin to decline in different regions at different times, depending in part on population growth, waste reduction efforts, and changes in consumption. Until that happens, the rising amount of waste means rising costs for governments and environmental pressures.



A guide on how hazardous waste affects the environment can be found at:



Solutions To Waste Pollution

Just a few of the key ways to address waste pollution might be:

  • Better waste management facilities, and secured waste disposal and treatment – particularly in low to middle income countries. This may significantly reduce the amount of waste escaping uncontained and open landfills for example.
  • Be more efficient and produce less waste in developing countries – look at consumption patterns, reduce consumption, and look at ways for businesses and producers to address wastage rates (re-designs and changing processes could be key here)
  • Put emphasis and on educating the public and businesses about and implementing reduce, re-use, recycle, and other key principles that deal with minimising waste, using materials and resources more efficiently, and proper waste management


Other solutions may include …


  • Money can often be saved with more efficiently designed collection routes, modifying vehicles, and with public education. Environmental policies such as pay as you throw can reduce the cost of management and reduce waste quantities. Waste recovery (that is, recycling, reuse) can curb economic costs because it avoids extracting raw materials and often cuts transportation costs
  • Separate and sort – separating and sorting out recyclable materials like paper, cardboard, metals and wood after receiving a delivery. Transporting, recycling, treating, and disposing of hazardous waste properly
  • Land is a precious commodity and by reducing the amount of waste we produce, reusing items more than once and recycling items correctly we can avoid the creation of more landfill sites and help maintain our unique environment. By recycling and removing all food and garden waste from our red-lidded general waste bin, landfill sites can be maintained for longer, helping to reduce biodiversity loss, save valuable space and reduce the amount of pests in our ecosystems



  • Ideally, we would like our plastic, glass, metal and paper waste to end up at a recycling facility. It then returns to us as a renewable product.



How different countries are trying to improve waste can be found at


  • Refuse – if you don’t really need it, don’t buy it. Or decline unnecessary carry bags.
  • Reduce – buy less and buy smarter. For example, Australians throw away about 30% of the food they purchase.
  • Reuse – take reusable bags when you go shopping or reuse ‘disposable’ bags.
  • Repair – don’t toss it, fix it. You may even save some money.
  • Repurpose – give an old item a new purpose and a new lease on life.
  • Resell (or donate) – if you no longer need it, someone else might have a use for it.
  • Recycle – when it finally fails and there is no other option, make sure it is recycled.
  • Rebuy – look for items that contain recycled materials to keep the system working.



  • Find ways to recycle more – currently, the U.S. recycles about 30% of its waste stream, even though the EPA estimates that up to 75% of our waste stream is recyclable. Only 1% of all plastic products in the United States are recycled every year, as are only 1% of all aluminum products. There are many benefits to recycling
  • Paper and cardboard – Paper and cardboard make up the majority of industrial waste products. This means that the average company can make a big impact simply by establishing a paper and cardboard recycling program. Businesses can have a huge impact on the environment, on our energy dependence, and on their own bottom line by taking steps to recycle more and landfill less. One of the simplest places to start is with a strong cardboard recycling program, as this is a valuable commodity that is easy to move.



According to Worldbank:

The World Bank finances and advises on solid waste management projects using a diverse suite of products and services, including traditional loans, results-based financing, development policy financing, and technical advisory.

World Bank-financed waste management projects address the entire lifecycle of waste—from generation to collection and transportation, and finally treatment and disposal.

Objectives that guide the Bank’s solid waste management projects and investments include:

  • Infrastructure: The World Bank provides capital investments to build or upgrade waste sorting and treatment facilities, close dumps, construct or refurbish landfills, and provide bins, dumpsters, trucks, and transfer stations.
  • Legal structures and institutions: Projects advise on sound policy measures and coordinated institutions for the municipal waste management sector.
  • Financial sustainability: Through the design of taxes and fee structures, and long-term planning, projects help governments improve waste cost containment and recovery.
  • Citizen engagement: Behavior change and public participation is key to a functional waste system. The World Bank supports designing incentives and awareness systems to motivate waste reduction, source-separation and reuse.
  • Social inclusion: Resource recovery in most developing countries relies heavily on informal workers, who collect, sort, and recycle 15%–20% of generated waste. Projects address waste picker livelihoods through strategies such as integration into the formal system, as well as the provision of safe working conditions, social safety nets, child labor restrictions, and education.
  • Climate change and the environment: Projects promote environmentally sound waste disposal. They support greenhouse gas mitigation through food loss and waste reduction, organic waste diversion, and the adoption of disposal technologies that capture biogas and landfill gas. Waste projects also support resilience by reducing waste disposal in waterways and safeguarding infrastructure against flooding.
  • Health and safety: The World Bank’s work in municipal waste management improves public health and livelihoods by reducing open burning, mitigating pest and disease vector spread, and preventing crime and violence.
  • Knowledge creation: The World Bank helps governments plan and explore locally appropriate solutions through technical expertise, and data and analytics.

The World Bank’s waste management engagement spans multiple development areas, including energy, environmental sustainability, food and agriculture, health and population, social protection, transportation, urban development, and water.

The World Bank has also documented the results of these solutions they have implemented



The 2100 forecast above in this guide is based on current rates of generation and disposal and consumption.

But that forecast can change:

“With lower populations, denser, more resource-efficient cities, and less consumption (along with higher affluence), the peak could come forward to 2075 and reduce in intensity by more than 25 percent. This would save around 2.6 million tonnes per day,” Hoornweg and his colleagues write.

Some cities are already setting positive examples for waste reduction. San Francisco, for example, has an ambitious goal of “zero waste” by 2020 with aggressive recycling. About 55 percent of its waste is recycled or reused today. Industries in Kawasaki, Japan, divert 565,000 tonnes of potential waste per year – exceeding the city’s current municipal waste levels.

Other tactics cities can embrace include:

  • Reducing food waste with better storage and transportation systems, which can both help lower trash levels and help feed a growing world population.
  • Construction strategies that reuse materials, saving trees and the energy that goes into developing other building materials and reducing waste.
  • Policies such as disposal fees and recycling programs that encourage less waste.

“The planet is already straining from the impacts of today’s waste and we are on a path to more than triple quantities,” the authors write. “Through a move towards stable or declining populations, denser and better-managed cities consuming fewer resources, and greater equity and use of technology, we can bring peak waste forward and down. The environmental, economic and social benefits would be enormous.”



More resources on potential solutions are:

  • (good resource on reducing business waste)


Other Areas Of Waste Generation & Pollution To Be Aware Of

The extent of waste and it’s impact is almost limitless. Just a FEW of the further points to be aware of might be (but there are many more):

  • Which sectors and waste materials produce the most waste that goes straight to landfill and can’t be re-used or recycled
  • What the most damaging wastes are (hazardous and toxic wastes are particularly damaging)
  • What the most damaging sectors and industries are
  • Look at the economic impact of waste, and the cost of different waste disposal methods. A guide outlining the value of the US waste industry can be found at According to, on average, it costs $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill, and $65 to $75 to incinerate it.
  • Know that waste practices and behaviors are not the same among regions, countries, sectors and so on – each community and system is different











































Plastic Pollution (& Waste): Causes, Sources, Effects & Solutions

Plastic Pollution: Causes, Sources, Effects & Solutions

Plastic is a widely used material in society.

Although plastic has some important uses, plastic pollution is also an issue that can arise from its use.

Plastic pollution can have a significant impact on humans, animals, the natural environment, and even the economy.

In this guide we outline what plastic pollution is, the causes, the sources, the effects, and potential solutions to mitigate and reduce plastic pollution.

You can also read more generally about waste pollution in this guide 

(NOTE: we have heavily paraphrased in this guide. You can find their full articles here –, and here


Summary – Plastic Pollution

  • Plastic has a long list of pros and cons, and is a widely used material across a number of sectors
  • The way industrialized and even developing countries are currently set up, we probably couldn’t get by without plastic due to the number of important uses it has
  • However, the flip side of that, is that plastic also has a significant negative impact on society in a number of ways – and, this is something that needs to be addressed
  • The causes of plastic pollution stem firstly from how plastic is made and what it is made of, and then the sheer quantity of plastic we produce and use, along with how we manage and dispose of it
  • The sources of plastic pollution stem from certain types of plastic, and specific countries, regions, industries and businesses that are responsible for using, producing or mismanaging the most plastic
  • The effects of plastic pollution are wide ranging, from mining of petrochemicals to make plastics (and associated waste, water pollution, and other consequences of mining), the production process of plastic and it’s waste, leaching of chemicals from certain plastics, ingestion, entanglement, and abrasion by mismanaged plastic waste, the impact of plastic on humans and human health, and even the economy
  • There are many potential solutions to plastic pollution such as using plastic more effectively, finding ways to re-design and re use or recycle more plastic, finding alternative materials to use that are more natural and biodegradable or reusable, and targeting the specific sources of plastic that cause the most problems, such as types of plastic, and specific regions, countries, businesses and industries


What Is Plastic Pollution?

Plastic pollution has many definitions, but it could generally be defined as the ‘presence in or introduction into the environment of plastic which has harmful or poisonous effects’

Some people restrict these effects to the environment only, but in reality, plastic impacts humans, health, society and the economy on a wider and deeper level as well.


Causes Of Plastic Pollution

Some of the main causes of plastic pollution are:

  • The wide use of plastic in society, and the quantity of it that we produce and use … especially single use or short use plastic
  • The materials and chemicals that are required to make plastic – petrochemicals are used, and fossil fuels have to be mined
  • The manufacturing of plastic produces waste and can use harmful chemicals
  • What plastic is made of (it’s chemical make up) – it’s synthetic, unlike natural materials
  • How long plastic lasts/how durable it is – it can last forever without fully breaking down
  • The way plastic is disposed of – mismanaged and gets into rivers and the ocean, creates gases/emissions in landfill along with leachate, or gets burnt and releases pollutants (gasification and pyrolysis both have issues with using them at scale over waste to energy plants)
  • Plastic can only be recycled so many times before it has to be discarded


Sources Of Plastic Pollution

Some of the main sources of plastic pollution are:

  • Plastic packaging
  • Single use plastics
  • Toxic plastics
  • Non recyclable plastic
  • Recyclable plastic that isn’t actually recycled (and re-directed to landfill)
  • Countries and regions that use or produce the most plastic (and import from poor countries, or export it to countries like China to recycle – although China has since stopped taking plastic from other countries)
  • Countries and regions that are responsible for the most mismanaged plastic and ocean plastic
  • Industries that use the most plastic and produce the most plastic waste
  • Businesses and companies that use the most plastic and produce the most plastic waste


Effects Of Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution can have an impact on all areas of society such as the environment (water, land, air), humans and human health, wildlife, and the economy.

Some specific effects of plastic pollution might be:

  • Plastic is made of petrochemicals – so it uses fossil fuels, and involves mining and fracking to source these base chemicals
  • The production process of plastic can involve emissions, as well as waste which is dumped into the environment
  • Mismanaged plastic gets into rivers, which is carried out to the ocean
  • Plastic in the environment leads to ingestion, entanglement, abrasion for animals and organisms of all sizes
  • Micro plastics are the result of bigger pieces of plastic breaking down into micro pieces of plastic – they can get into animals and organisms, and possibly into the food supply
  • Plastic releases toxic chemicals that can leach into the environment, into soil, into water sources, and even onto human tissue (which may have health related consequences for humans)
  • Chlorinated plastic specifically can release harmful chemicals (can seep into soil, groundwater and other water sources) 
  • Plastic sent to land fills can release emissions as well as leachate
  • Plastic recycling isn’t always cost of time efficient, and some plastic can’t be recycled (and may be sent to landfill)
  • Incineration waste to energy burning of plastic may release emissions or air contaminants. Gasification and pyrolysis, which may be less environmentally damaging, have some challenges preventing their large scale adoption at the moment
  • The economic cost to address plastic pollution in oceans and on land can be significant


Solutions To Plastic Pollution

Some of the main solutions to address plastic pollution might be:

  • Redesign plastic to contain more biodegradable, less toxic, and more natural materials (over petrochemicals)
  • Redesign plastic to be recyclable and re-usable and contribute to the
  • Redesign plastic to not break down into microplastics
  • Use alternative materials other than plastic
  • Use plastic far more wisely and effectively in lesser quantities and for longer lasting items (that lasts years and decades)
  • Target countries and regions that produce or use the most plastic
  • Target countries and regions that mismanage and poorly dispose of plastic the most
  • Target countries that burn the most plastic and emit the most air pollution and greenhouse gases
  • Target countries and regions that are responsible for the most plastic waste in the ocean
  • Target organizations and businesses in addition to countries and regions
  • Overall, we need to be aware of the cons of using the different types of plastic, and the negative short and long term consequences, and we have to balance that against the pros that plastic provides. We have to look at all areas of society – the social and health, environmental, and economic areas.


More Resources & Guides On Plastic, & Plastic Pollution



1. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) – “Plastic Pollution”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘’ [Online Resource]








What Elon Musk Said On The Joe Rogan Experience About Climate Change, Carbon Emissions, Sustainable Energy & Electric Cars

Elon Musk was on the Joe Rogan Experience today, and they covered some important topics such as Climate Change, Carbon Emissions, Sustainable Energy, Electric Cars and much more.

The following are some interesting paraphrased quotes from Elon Mush on the Joe Rogan Experience on Thursday 6th September, 2018:


Electric cars are important, solar energy is important, stationary storage of energy is important


It’s important that we accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. That’s why electric cars matter, whether electric cars happen sooner or later


We’re really playing a crazy game here with the atmosphere and the oceans. We’re taking vast amounts of carbon from deep underground, and putting this in the atmosphere – this is crazy! We should not do this. It’s very dangerous


The bizarre thing is that we are going to run out of oil long term. There’s only so much oil we can mine and burn. We must have a sustainable energy transport and infrastructure in the long term – we know that’s the end point. We know that. So, why run this crazy experiment, where we take trillions of tonnes of carbon from underground, and put it in the atmosphere and oceans. This is an insane experiment. This is the dumbest experiment in human history. Why are we doing this…it’s crazy!


The thing is – oil, coal, gas…it’s easy money.


It’s very difficult to put C02 back in the ground, it doesn’t like being in solid form, it takes a lot of energy[in answer to Joe Rogan’s questioning about clean coal].


The more carbon we take out of the ground, and it gets added to the atmosphere, and a lot of it gets permeated into the oceans, the more dangerous it is. I think we are OK right now…we can probably even add some more. But, the momentum towards sustainable energy is too slow.


There’s a vast base of industry, vast transportation industry. There’s 2.5 billion cars and trucks in the world. And new car and truck production – if it was 100% electric, that’s only about 100 million per year [new cars and trucks produced]. So, if you could snap your fingers, and turn all cars and trucks electric, it would still take 25 years, to change the transport base to electric. Make sense? Because how long does it take for a car or truck to go into the junk yard and get crushed? About 20-25 years.


[Joe asks – is there a way to accelerate the electric vehicle transition process – via subsidies, or encouragement from the government for example] Elon says – the thing is, what is going on now is there is an inherent subsidy in any oil burning device, any power plant or car, is fundamentally consuming the carbon capacity of the oceans and atmosphere…or just say atmosphere for short.


So, you can say there is a certain probability of something bad happening past a certain carbon concentration in the atmosphere. And, so there’s some uncertain number where if we put too much carbon in the atmosphere, things overheat, oceans warm up, ice caps melt, ocean real estate becomes a lot less valuable…because it’s underwater. It’s not clear what that number is, but the scientific consensus is overwhelming.


I don’t know any serious scientist, in fact, quite literally zero, that don’t think that there’s a quite serious climate risk that we’re facing


There’s fundamentally a subsidy occurring with every fossil fuel burning thing – power plants, aircrafts, cars, even rockets.


With cars there’s definitely a better way – with electric cars, to generate the energy with photovoltaics. Because, we’ve got a giant thermonuclear reactor in the sky called the Sun – it’s great, it shows up every day, it’s very reliable. You can generate energy with solar panels, store it with batteries 24 hours a day. And then you can send it to the Poles, to the North, with high voltage lines. The Northern parts of the world tend to have a lot of hydropower as well.


Anyway, all fossil fuel powered things have an inherent subsidy, which is their consumption of the carbon capacity of the atmosphere, and oceans.


People tend to think – why should electric vehicles have a subsidy? But, they aren’t taking into account that all fossil fuel burning vehicles have a subsidy which is the environmental cost to earth…but, nobody is paying for it. We will all pay for it in the future though eventually. It’s just not paid for now.


[Joe asks what the bottleneck is with electric cars – is it battery capacity?] Elon says we have to scale up production, we have to make the car compelling, make it better than gasoline or diesel cars, make it go far enough, make it go fast.


[Joe asks what Elon sees when he thinks about the future of his companies – what he sees as bottlenecks to holding back innovation] Elon says that’s a good question, but he wishes politicians were better at science – that would help a lot. [Joe says that’s a problem – there’s no incentive for them to be good at science]. Elon agrees but says they are pretty good at science in China. The mayor of Beijing he believes has an environmental engineering degree and the deputy mayor has a physics degree. The mayor of Shanghai is really smart.


Water Scarcity: Causes, Effects, Solutions, Forecasts & Stats

Water Scarcity: Causes, Effects, Solutions & Stats

Water scarcity is made up of a number of water related factors and issues.

It is a term loosely thrown around by different organisations and media outlets, with different meanings depending on who is using it and in what context.

In this guide we outline what water scarcity is, the types of water scarcity, what causes it, the effects, countries affected, and solutions.


Summary – Water Scarcity

  • Water scarcity is a different measurement and indicator to water stress
  • Water stress is simply an indicator of water supplies vs water demand – expressed as low to high levels of water stress
  • Water scarcity occurs when water demand actually exceeds internal water resources i.e. a water stressed country or city is more likely to experience water scarcity
  • There’s a range of potential ways to measure water scarcity
  • There’s a range of types of water scarcity such as physical water scarcity, and economic water scarcity
  • Causes of water scarcity can vary, but could be a combination of any of the following overpopulation or a growth in population, lack of signifiacant/adequate freshwater supplies, lack of money to invest in tech and infrastructure used for accessing and maintaining freshwater, poor management of water resources or access to water resources, high usage/demand and increased consumption of water in all sectors (residential, commercial, industrial) and particularly agriculture, high temperatures and dry climates, climate change, droughts, lack of rainfall, or variability in rainfall, and natural events and natural disasters like floods which pollute or disrupt a water supply
  • One-third of the global population (2 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year
  • Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round
  • Half of the world’s largest cities experience water scarcity
  • Water Demand is expected to outstrip supply by 40% in 2030, if current trends continue.
  • Scarcity can be expected to intensify with most forms of economic development, but, if correctly identified, many of its causes can be predicted, avoided or mitigated
  • Desalination plants and recycling and re-using grey water and waste water after treatment are just some of the options in developed countries to combat water scarcity
  • In developing countries, financial investment to address water pollution and contamination, human waste and treatment and hygiene infrastructure, fresh water supply etc. are required


What Is Water Scarcity, & Absolute Water Scarcity?

  • Water scarcity is the lack of fresh water resources to meet water demand.
  • The essence of global water scarcity is the geographic and temporal mismatch between freshwater demand and availability.


  • Water scarcity is more extreme than water stress, and occurs when water demand exceeds internal water resources.



Note that there is a difference between water scarcity, and absolute water scarcity – which we outline below.

Keep this in mind when you read stats about water scarcity.


Measuring Water Scarcity explains that there are 4 ways water scarcity might be measured and described:

1. One of the most commonly used measures of water scarcity is the ‘Falkenmark indicator’ or ‘water stress index’. This method defines water scarcity in terms of the total water resources that are available to the population of a region; measuring scarcity as the amount of renewable freshwater that is available for each person each year.

If the amount of renewable water in a country is below 1,700 m3 per person per year, that country is said to be experiencing water stress; below 1,000 m3 it is said to be experiencing water scarcity; and below 500 m3, absolute water scarcity.


2. An alternative way of defining and measuring water scarcity is to use a criticality ratio. This approach relaxes the assumption that all countries use the same amount of water, instead defining water scarcity in terms of each country’s water demand compared to the amount of water available; measuring scarcity as the proportion of total annual water withdrawals relative to total available water resources.

Using this approach, a country is said to be water scarce if annual withdrawals are between 20-40% of annual supply, and severely water scarce if they exceed 40%.


3. A third measure of water scarcity was developed by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). This approach attempts to solve the problems listed above by including: each country’s water infrastructure, such as water in desalination plants, into the measure of water availability; including recycled water by limiting measurements of water demand to consumptive use rather than total withdrawals; and measuring the adaptive capacity of a country by assessing its potential for infrastructure development and efficiency improvements.

Using this approach, the IWMI classifies countries that are predicted to be unable to meet their future water demand without investment in water infrastructure and efficiency as economically water scarce; and countries predicted to be unable to meet their future demand, even with such investment, as physically water scarce.


4. A fourth approach to measuring water scarcity is the ‘water poverty index’. This approach attempts to take into account the role of income and wealth in determining water scarcity by measuring: (1) the level of access to water; (2) water quantity, quality, and variability; (3) water used for domestic, food, and productive purposes; (4) capacity for water management; and (5) environmental aspects. The complexity of this approach, however, means that it is more suited for analysis at a local scale, where data is more readily available, than on a national level.


You can read more about each approach and it’s limitations in’s guide.


Water Scarcity vs Water Stress

Water stress is the ratio of total withdrawals to total renewable supply in a given area. A higher percentage means more water users are competing for limited water supplies, and therefore that area/country is more stressed.

But water stress is just an indicator how how close a country might be getting to running out of water.

(You can read more about water stress and water stress related information in this guide)

On the other hand, a country is water scarce when water is not available to meet demand.


Types Of Water Scarcity

There’s two types of water scarcity:

Physical Water Scarcity

  • Results from inadequate natural water resources to supply a region’s demand
  • Around one fifth of the world’s population currently live in regions affected by Physical Water Scarcity, where there is inadequate water resources to meet a country’s or regional demand, including the water needed to fulfill the demand of ecosystems to function effectively.
  • It also occurs where water seems abundant but where resources are over-committed, such as when there is over development of hydraulic infrastructure for irrigation. Symptoms of physical water scarcity include environmental degradation and declining groundwater as well as other forms of exploitation or overuse.


  • can mean scarcity in availability due to physical shortage



Economic Water Scarcity

  • Can result in two ways…
  • Results from poor management of the sufficient available water resources
  • Or, results by a lack of investment in infrastructure or technology to draw water from rivers, aquifers or other water sources, or insufficient human capacity to satisfy the demand for water.
  • Found more often to be the cause of countries or regions experiencing water scarcity, as most countries or regions have enough water to meet household, industrial, agricultural, and environmental needs, but lack the means to provide it in an accessible manner.
  • One quarter of the world’s population is affected by economic water scarcity.
  • Economic water scarcity includes a lack of infrastructure, causing the people without reliable access to water to have to travel long distances to fetch water, that is often contaminated from rivers for domestic and agricultural uses.
  • Large parts of Africa suffer from economic water scarcity; developing water infrastructure in those areas could therefore help to reduce poverty.
  • Critical conditions often arise for economically poor and politically weak communities living in already dry environment.
  • Consumption increases with GDP per capita in most developed countries, and the average amount (per capita) is around 200–300 litres daily.
  • In underdeveloped countries (e.g. African countries such as Mozambique), average daily water consumption per capita was below 10 L.
  • This is against the backdrop of international organisations, which recommend a minimum of 20 L of water (not including the water needed for washing clothes), available at most 1 km from the household.
  • Increased water consumption is correlated with increasing income, as measured by GDP per capita. In countries suffering from water shortages water is the subject of speculation.


  • can mean scarcity in access due to the failure of institutions to ensure a regular supply, or
  • scarcity due to a lack of adequate infrastructure



What Causes Water Scarcity?

There’s many factors that can cause water scarcity including:

  • Overpopulation or a growth in population
  • Lack of freshwater reserves
  • Lack of money to invest in tech and infrastructure used for accessing freshwater
  • Poor management of water resources or access to water resources
  • High usage/demand and increased consumption of water in all sectors (residential, commercial, industrial) and particularly agriculture
  • High temperatures and dry climates
  • Climate change
  • Droughts
  • Lack of rainfall, or variability in rainfall
  • Natural events and natural disasters like floods which pollute or disrupt a water supply also offers other causes:

  • Partial or no satisfaction of expressed demand
  • Economic competition for water quantity or quality
  • Disputes between users of water sources
  • Irreversible depletion of groundwater
  • Negative impacts on the environment which impact water sources
  • Technically, there is a sufficient amount of freshwater on a global scale. However, due to unequal distribution (exacerbated by climate change) resulting in some very wet and some very dry geographic locations, plus a sharp rise in global freshwater demand in recent decades driven by industry, humanity is facing a water crisis.
  • The increasing world population, improving living standards, changing consumption patterns, and expansion of irrigated agriculture are the main driving forces for the rising global demand for water.
  • Climate change, such as altered weather-patterns (including droughts or floods), deforestation, increased pollution, green house gases, and wasteful use of water can cause insufficient supply
  • At the global level and on an annual basis, enough freshwater is available to meet such demand, but spatial and temporal variations of water demand and availability are large, leading to (physical) water scarcity in several parts of the world during specific times of the year. All causes of water scarcity are related to human interference with the water cycle. Scarcity varies over time as a result of natural hydrological variability, but varies even more so as a function of prevailing economic policy, planning and management approaches.
  • The total amount of easily accessible freshwater on Earth, in the form of surface water (rivers and lakes) or groundwater (in aquifers, for example), is 14.000 cubic kilometres (nearly 3359 cubic miles). Of this total amount, ‘just’ 5.000 cubic kilometres are being used and reused by humanity. Hence, in theory, there is more than enough freshwater available to meet the demands of the current world population of 7 billion people, and even support population growth to 9 billion or more. Due to the unequal geographical distribution and especially the unequal consumption of water, however, it is a scarce resource in some parts of the world and for some parts of the population.
  • Scarcity as a result of consumption is caused primarily by the extensive use of water in agriculture/livestock breeding and industry. People in developed countries generally use about 10 times more water daily than those in developing countries. A large part of this is indirect use in water-intensive agricultural and industrial production processes of consumer goods, such as fruit, oil seed crops and cotton. Because many of these production chains have been globalised, a lot of water in developing countries is being used and polluted in order to produce goods destined for consumption in developed countries.



Climate change and bio-energy demands are also expected to amplify the already complex relationship between world development and water demand



Effects Of Water Scarcity

The effects of water scarcity may not be so severe, but it can turn into absolute water scarcity if not managed properly.

Absolute water scarcity on the other hand can be detrimental to country or region. Some effects can involve:

  • Economic effects – lack of economic growth, and increased poverty
  • Health effects – malnutrition from lack of water and lack of water to grow food to eat, hygiene and sanitary related health issues
  • Environment effects – increased salinity, nutrient pollution, and the loss of floodplains and wetlands. Furthermore, water scarcity makes flow management in the rehabilitation of urban streams problematic.

There can also be flow on social impact from these effects such as threats to social health (diseases), safety (increased violence and war) and stability (loss of employment).

Humans, animals, plants and the greater natural environment and atmosphere can be impacted by scarcity of water.


How Much Of The World Is Affected By Water Scarcity?

  • One-third of the global population (2 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year
  • Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round
  • Half of the world’s largest cities experience water scarcity


  • a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year



What’s The Future Forecast/Trend For Water Scarcity?

  • Water Demand is expected to outstrip supply by 40% in 2030, if current trends continue.
  • Scarcity can be expected to intensify with most forms of economic development, but, if correctly identified, many of its causes can be predicted, avoided or mitigated



Solutions To Water Scarcity

General solutions to water scarcity may include:

  • Getting access to additional freshwater sources
  • Investing in water technology and infrastructure in low income, and highly water stressed countries and regions
  • Controlling populations in human dense cities and urban locations
  • Controlling water pollution
  • Using water efficiently at the home, commercial and industrial levels
  • Governments having good water management plans now and in the future, and governments being more organised
  • Developing freshwater technology to be cheaper and more energy friendly e.g. desalination plants
  • Mitigating the impact of climate change
  • Having drought and other natural event management plans
  • Better co-operation between countries on shared or trans-boundary freshwater sources
  • Everyone in society treating water as a scare resource to be protected
  • + more


More specific solutions, per, may include:

  • Some countries have already proven that decoupling water use from economic growth is possible. For example, in Australia, water consumption declined by 40% between 2001 and 2009 while the economy grew by more than 30%. The International Resource Panel of the UN states that governments have tended to invest heavily in largely inefficient solutions: mega-projects like dams, canals, aqueducts, pipelines and water reservoirs, which are generally neither environmentally sustainable nor economically viable. The most cost-effective way of decoupling water use from economic growth, according to the scientific panel, is for governments to create holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle: from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, recycling, reuse and return to the environment.
  • Construction of wastewater treatment plants and reduction of groundwater overdrafting appear to be obvious solutions to the worldwide problem; however, a deeper look reveals more fundamental issues in play.
  • Wastewater treatment is highly capital intensive, restricting access to this technology in some regions; furthermore the rapid increase in population of many countries makes this a race that is difficult to win.
  • As if those factors are not daunting enough, one must consider the enormous costs and skill sets involved to maintain wastewater treatment plants even if they are successfully developed.
  • Reducing groundwater overdrafting is usually politically unpopular, and can have major economic impacts on farmers. Moreover, this strategy necessarily reduces crop output, something the world can ill-afford given the current population.
  • At more realistic levels, developing countries can strive to achieve primary wastewater treatment or secure septic systems, and carefully analyse wastewater outfall design to minimize impacts to drinking water and to ecosystems. Developed countries can not only share technology better, including cost-effective wastewater and water treatment systems but also in hydrological transport modeling. At the individual level, people in developed countries can look inward and reduce over consumption, which further strains worldwide water consumption.
  • Both developed and developing countries can increase protection of ecosystems, especially wetlands and riparian zones. There measures will not only conserve biota, but also render more effective the natural water cycle flushing and transport that make water systems more healthy for humans.
  • A range of local, low-tech solutions are being pursued by a number of companies. These efforts center around the use of solar power to distill water at temperatures slightly beneath that at which water boils. By developing the capability to purify any available water source, local business models could be built around the new technologies, accelerating their uptake. For example, Bedouins from the town of Dahab in Egypt have installed Aqua Danial’s Water Stellar, which uses a solar thermal collector measuring two square meters to distill from 40 to 60 liters per day from any local water source.
  • This is five times more efficient than conventional stills and eliminates the need for polluting plastic PET bottles or transportation of water supply.



There is not a global water shortage as such, but individual countries and regions need to urgently tackle the critical problems presented by water stress.

Water has to be treated as a scarce resource, with a far stronger focus on managing demand. Integrated water resources management provides a broad framework for governments to align water use patterns with the needs and demands of different users, including the environment.



Stats On Water Scarcity

  • Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of scarcity. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers). (FAO, 2007) via
  • Around 700 million people in 43 countries suffer today from water scarcity. (Global Water Institute, 2013)
  • Two thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2016) via
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under water stress conditions. (UNESCO, 2012) via
  • With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people. (UNCCD) via
  • A third of the world’s biggest groundwater systems are already in distress (Richey et al., 2015) via
  • Nearly half the global population are already living in potential waterscarce areas at least one month per year and this could increase to some 4.8–5.7 billion in 2050. About 73% of the affected people live in Asia (69% by 2050) (Burek et al., 2016) via







5. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) – “Water Access, Resources & Sanitation”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘’ [Online Resource]


Water Stress: Causes, Effects, Solutions, Forecast & Stats

Water Stress: Causes, Effects, Solutions & Stats

Water stress is tightly linked to other global water issues.

The reason it is important to know about and keep track of is, the more water stressed a country or region gets, the closer they get to a water shortage.

In this guide we look at what it is, what causes it, the effect it has, potential solutions, as well as other important stats and information about water stress.


Summary – Water Stress

  • Water stress can be an indication of how much pressure a city’s fresh water supplies are under, and how close they are to being depleted. Water stress can be measured in cubic meters of fresh water remaining per person, per year. The lower the measurement get, the more water stressed a region becomes
  • Causes of high water stress can include lack of natural or standard freshwater reserves, High water usage/demand and increased consumption of water in all sectors (residential, commercial, industrial) and particularly agriculture, population growth or high population density (like in big cities), high temperatures and dry climates, increasing temperatures, droughts, lack of rainfall, or variability in rainfall, and natural events and natural disasters like floods which pollute or disrupt a water supply
  • More than one in every six people in the world is water stressed, meaning that they do not have sufficient access to potable water.
  • Some estimates predict that by 2040, around 33 countries could face extreme water stress
  • Governments implementing short term and long term water conservation and water supply policies and actions are KEY to preventing water stress in the future – especially in dry, warm, low rainfall, drought prone cities with growing populations


What Is Water Stress?

A few different definitions and explanations of water stress are:

– Water stress is the ratio of total withdrawals to total renewable supply in a given area. A higher percentage means more water users are competing for limited water supplies, and therefore that area/country is more stressed –

– Water stress is defined based on the ratio of freshwater withdrawals to renewable freshwater resources. Water stress does not insinuate that a country has water shortages, but does give an indication of how close it maybe be to exceeding a water basin’s renewable resources. If water withdrawals exceed available resources (i.e. greater than 100 percent) then a country is either extracting beyond the rate at which aquifers can be replenished, or has very high levels of desalinisation water generation (the conversion of seawater to freshwater using osmosis processes). –

– According to the Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator, a country or region is said to experience “water stress” when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic metres per person per year. At levels between 1,700 and 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, periodic or limited water shortages can be expected. When a country is below 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, the country then faces water scarcity . –


Water Stress Ratings & Scale

According to the WRI, countries can fit into the following ranges, based on ratio of water withdrawals to water supply in the country:

  • Low – less than 10% (i.e. the country is withdrawing less than 10% of their overall water supply)
  • Low To Medium – 10 to 20%
  • Medium To High – 20 to 40%
  • High – 40 to 80%
  • Extremely High – more than 80%

So, a country withdrawing more than 80% of their water supply would be classified as having extremely high water stress.



Causes Of Water Stress

It differs depending on the country. But general factors can include:

  • Lack of freshwater reserves
  • High usage/demand and increased consumption of water in all sectors (residential, commercial, industrial) and particularly agriculture
  • Population growth
  • High temperatures and dry climates
  • Climate change
  • Droughts
  • Lack of rainfall, or variability in rainfall
  • Natural events and natural disasters like floods which pollute or disrupt a water supply


Some of the other factors can include:

  • Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies
  • More people will move to cities, further straining supplies
  • An emerging middle class could clamor for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation



  • Another popular opinion is that the amount of available freshwater is decreasing because of climate change.



  • Every water-stressed country is affected by a different combination of factors. Chile, for example, projected to move from medium water stress in 2010 to extremely high stress in 2040, is among the countries more likely to face a water supply decrease from the combined effects of rising temperatures in critical regions and shifting precipitation patterns.
  • Botswana and Namibia sit squarely within a region that is already vulnerable to climate change. Water supplies are limited, and risk from floods and droughts is high. Projected temperature increases in southern Africa are likely to exceed the global average, along with overall drying and increased rainfall variability. On the water demand side, according to Aqueduct projections, a 40 to 70 percent—or greater—increase is expected, further exacerbating the region’s concerns.
  • Whatever the drivers, extremely high water stress creates an environment in which companies, farms and residents are highly dependent on limited amounts of water and vulnerable to the slightest change in supply. Such situations severely threaten national water security and economic growth.



  • By 2030, water demand is expected to exceed current supply by 40 percent, according to the Water Resources Group, an arm of the World Bank.
  • “In many parts of the world, water scarcity is increasing and rates of growth in agricultural production have been slowing,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an address to mark World Water Day last month.
  • “At the same time, climate change is exacerbating risk and unpredictability for farmers, especially for poor farmers in low-income countries…These interlinked challenges are increasing competition between communities and countries for scarce water resources, aggravating old security dilemmas, creating new ones and hampering the achievement of the fundamental human rights to food, water and sanitation.”
  • Experts say water shortages aren’t solely about a planetary climate that is becoming warmer and drier. Much of the blame can also be laid on the mismanagement of existing water resources.
  • Many industrial processes use a staggering amount of water from start to finish. It takes about 270 gallons of water to produce $1 worth of sugar; 200 gallons of water to make $1 worth of pet food; and 140 gallons of water to make $1 worth of milk.

–, and


Effects Of Water Stress

Overall, higher water stress means freshwater reserves are being depleted, and the closer you get to very high water stress, the closer you get to a water shortage.

Water restrictions means there is less water for all activities in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

Water shortages means extreme restrictions on water, and in some cases no water is available either temporarily or permanently for a certain period of time.

There are negative social, economic, health and environmental effects because of this.

Agriculture, as a big user of water, has less water to grow food for the population. Other businesses also have less water for products and raw materials manufacture.

There may also be less drinking water, water for sanitation, and water for cleaning for households – all of which can effect health and hygiene.


Other effects can be:

  • Businesses, farms, and communities in countries affected by water stress in particular may be more vulnerable to water scarcity
  • Civil wars can break out in extreme circumstances
  • Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people, primarily farmers and herders, to lose their livelihoods and leave their land, move to urban areas, and magnify Syria’s general destabilization.



How Much Of The World Is Affected By Water Stress

  • More than one in every six people in the world is water stressed, meaning that they do not have sufficient access to potable water.
  • Those that are water stressed make up 1.1 billion people in the world and are living in developing countries.
  • In 2006, about 700 million people in 43 countries were living below the 1,700 cubic metres of water per person, per year threshold.



Countries That Are Water Stressed

  • Water stress is ever intensifying in regions such as China, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa, which contains the largest number of water stressed countries of any region with almost one fourth of the population living in a water stressed country.
  • The world’s most water stressed region is the Middle East with averages of 1,200 cubic metres of water per person.
  • In China, more than 538 million people are living in a water-stressed region.
  • Much of the water stressed population currently live in river basins where the usage of water resources greatly exceed the renewal of the water source.



Forecasts & Trends For Water Stress Now & In The Future

Estimates have been done for 167 countries by 2040

WRI scored and ranked future water stress—a measure of competition and depletion of surface water—in 167 countries by 2020, 2030, and 2040. They found that 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040

It was found that Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040. This means that businesses, farms, and communities in these countries in particular may be more vulnerable to scarcity than they are today.


You can check out for the forecast of water stressed countries by 2040, and a handy map which shows the forecasted water stress level of these countries.


Solutions To Water Stress

  • National and local governments must bring forward strong national climate action plans and support a strong international climate agreement
  • Governments must also respond with management and conservation practices that will help protect essential sustainable water resources for years to come.



  • In Australia, water consumption declined by 40% between 2001 and 2009 while the economy grew by more than 30%. The International Resource Panel of the UN states that governments have tended to invest heavily in largely inefficient solutions: mega-projects like dams, canals, aqueducts, pipelines and water reservoirs, which are generally neither environmentally sustainable nor economically viable. The most cost-effective way of decoupling water use from economic growth, according to the scientific panel, is for governments to create holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle: from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, recycling, reuse and return to the environment.



  • Water reuse however poses some unique challenges. Strict water regulations, while providing necessary legislation around delivery of potable water to our homes, can create unnecessary barriers in use of wastewater for industry. Effluent water, known as ‘greywater’, is generated through wastewater municipal treatment plants, treated and discharged. Yet over 95% of grey water is simply discharged into surface ponds.
  • However greywater can provide a valuable opportunity for water reuse in non-potable applications within industry. Addressing regulatory standards would not only allow for efficient reuse of this greywater but reduce the burden on freshwater supplies. This policy has already shown great success in Singapore. Their Bedok NEWater reuse plant provides wastewater for industry, using GE’s ZeeWeed membrane technology to reliably remove suspended solids from water. Initiatives like this are why Singapore now boasts production of more than 100 million gallons a day of recycled water for industrial, commercial and domestic use.
  • Water reuse is not limited to a national scale. At Frito Lay’s Casa Grande facility, Arizona, they utilise a ZeeWeed membrane bioreactor and reverse osmosis system from GE that treats and recycles 648,000 gallons per day. This solution helped achieve ambitious renewable targets, including a 90% reduction in water and electricity usage. The plant has the distinction of being the first existing food manufacturing site in the United States to achieve LEED EB environmental Gold Certification.
  • Water reuse has also shown impressive benefits within the oil and gas industry. In 2015 the Carigali-PTTEPI Operating Company was honoured with an ecomagination award by General Electric, recognising its positive environmental impact for its success in water reuse on a natural gas platform in the Gulf of Thailand. By installing advanced GE cooling and chemical treatment technology the company were able to save 132,000 gallons of water and $52 million a year by reducing platform downtime.





2. .


4. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) – “Water Access, Resources & Sanitation”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘’ [Online Resource]




Best (& Most Effective) Ways To Reduce Your Own Personal Carbon Footprint

Best (& Most Effective) Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

You’ve probably read a few of these ‘reduce your carbon footprint’ guides before … and, so have we.

But, did you know that some guides might be giving you only the ‘low impact’ ways to reduce your footprint?

There’s been research done into what the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint are, and the approximate CO2e (kg of carbon dioxide equivalent) reduced per year by implementing these actions.

What was found was that there’s a clear difference between ‘high impact’, ‘moderate impact’ and ‘low impact’ actions.

It makes sense to seriously consider the high impact actions on an individual level, and through society as a whole.


Summary – Most Effective Ways To Reduce Personal Carbon Footprint

Some of the high impact ways listed below include:

  • Think about the number of children you have – each extra person in the world introduces new carbon emissions to the world
  • Think about how much you use your car, and consider how you can walk or ride around more (or catch public transport) – cars/individual conventional fuelled cars contribute to a lot of carbon emissions because they burn fossil fuels
  • Think about how often you fly in planes – taking less plane trips a year can reduce carbon emissions
  • Switch to renewable/green energy – if your house currently runs on coal or gas power, switching to solar or another renewable energy technology reduces emissions
  • Consider how you drive – buying a fuel efficient car, buying an electric car, or simply reducing the amount of braking and accelerating you do can all reduce emissions
  • Consider what your food diet looks like – meat, animals based products and processed foods all tend to have a high carbon footprint than plant based diets. It’s also worth noting that the highest offending carbon footprint meats tend to be beef, lamb, and pork, with chicken usually having a smaller carbon footprint


High Impact, Moderate Impact, & Low Impact Actions For Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emission Footprint

Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas outline high impact, moderate impact and low impact ways to reduce carbon dioxide in terms of approximate CO2e reduced per year (in kg):

High Impact Actions

  • Have one fewer child – 23, 700 up to 117,  700 CO2e reduced per year (kg)
  • Live car free – 1000 up to 5300
  • Avoid one long range flight per year – 700 up to 2800
  • Purchase green energy – less than 100, up to 2500
  • Reduce effects of driving – 1190
  • Eat a plant based diet – 300 up to 1600

Moderate Impact Actions

  • Better home heating/cooling efficiency – 180
  • Install solar panels/renewable energy
  • Use public transportation, ride a bike, or walk
  • Buy energy efficient products
  • Conserve energy – 210
  • Reduce food waste – 370
  • Eat less meat – 230
  • Reduce consumption in general (of products)
  • Reuse – 5
  • Recycle – 210
  • Eat local – 0 up to 360

Low Impact Actions

  • Conserve water
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel
  • Minimize waste
  • Plant a tree – 6 up to 60
  • Compost
  • Purchase carbon offsets
  • Reduce lawn mowing
  • Eco tourism
  • Keep backyard chickens
  • Buy Eco labelled products
  • Calculate your home’s carbon footprint

Civic Actions

  • Spread awareness
  • Influence employer’s actions
  • Influence school’s actions

–, and

You can read more on their analysis into the climate mitigation gap at:



Further Solutions On Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

We’ve also put together a guide on potential solutions for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions based issues, effects and impacts.

You might get some more ideas and insight into the issue by reading it.





Solutions To (& Options To Address) Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Solutions To Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The ideal goal for carbon emissions worldwide is to limit future warming to below a total increase of 2 degrees Celsius (which puts us in line with pre industrial revolution levels).

Whether we reach this goal or not is dependent on how aggressively we put in place and act on climate change and greenhouse gas emission solutions.

We look at some of these potential solutions below.

(*Note that no solution works on it’s own and no solution is completely perfect. It takes a comprehensive  and holistic approach with different solutions working together to reduce the effects of climate change)


Solutions To Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Summary

The one thing humans can control with climate change is the level of greenhouse gas emissions we emit in the future – we can reduce, or eliminate them altogether (bring emissions to zero).

The main causes behind human emissions of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) is the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) for:

  • electricity and heat production
  • transportation
  • industry (factories and production of goods and raw materials)
  • commercial and residential uses
  • and agriculture and clearing of land

The main approach to addressing these causes is:

  • Climate change mitigation – involves reducing or eliminating emissions, or creating carbon ‘sinks’ (absorbing carbon from the atmosphere)

Other approaches to addressing climate change are climate change adaptation, and climate engineering.


According to, we have 4 options:

  • Emissions reduction: reducing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Sequestration: removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere into permanent geological, biological or oceanic reservoirs.
  • Adaptation: responding to and coping with climate change as it occurs, in either a planned or unplanned way.
  • Solar geoengineering: large-scale engineered modifications to limit the amount of sunlight reaching the earth, in an attempt to offset the effects of ongoing greenhouse gas emissions.

Each embodies a large suite of specific options, with associated risks, costs and benefits. The four strategies can affect each other: for example, doing nothing to reduce emissions would require increased expenditure to adapt to climate change, and increased chances of future resort to geoengineering.


There are many ways to reduce emissions of CO2 and other warming agents, including shifting energy supply away from dependence on fossil fuels; energy efficiency in the domestic, industrial, service and transport sectors; reductions in overall demand through better system design; and efficient reductions in emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbon gases and black-carbon aerosols. Uptake of all of these options is happening now, and multiple studies have shown that they can be expanded effectively.

Ultimately, some climate change is inevitable and adaptation will definitely be required.

The more CO2 that is emitted in the next few decades, the stronger the adaptation measures that will be needed in future. There are limits to the adaptive capacities of both ecosystems and human societies, particularly in less developed regions. Thus, the decisions we make today on emissions will affect not only the future requirements for and costs of adaptation measures, but also their feasibility.



Solutions To Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Specific Examples




Commercial and Residential

Agriculture, Land Use and Forestry



Other Ideas and potential solutions from various sources might include…


Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas outline high impact, moderate impact and low impact ways to reduce carbon dioxide in terms of approximate CO2e reduced per year (kg):

High Impact Actions

  • Have one fewer child – 23 700 up to 117 700 CO2e reduced per year (kg)
  • Live car free – 1000 up to 5300
  • Avoid one long range flight per year – 700 up to 2800
  • Purchase green energy – less than 100, up to 2500
  • Reduce effects of driving – 1190
  • Eat a plant based diet – 300 up to 1600

Moderate Impact Actions

  • Home heating/cooling efficiency – 180
  • Install solar panels/renewables
  • Use public transportation, ride a bike, or walk
  • Buy energy efficient products
  • Conserve energy – 210
  • Reduce food waste – 370
  • Eat less meat – 230
  • Reduce consumption in general (of products)
  • Reuse – 5
  • Recycle – 210
  • Eat local – 0 up to 360

Low Impact Actions

  • Conserve water
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel
  • Minimize waste
  • Plant a tree – 6 up to 60
  • Compost
  • Purchase carbon offsets
  • Reduce lawn mowing
  • Eco tourism
  • Keep backyard chickens
  • Buy Eco labelled products
  • Calculate your home’s carbon footprint

Civic Actions

  • Spread awareness
  • Influence employer’s actions
  • Influence school’s actions

–, and


Some specific solutions to mitigating GG emissions and climate change might include:

  • More efficient use of residential electronics, and new technology for household electronics
  • More efficient use of residential appliances
  • Retrofit residential HVAC
  • Tillage and residue management
  • Insulation retrofits for residential buildings
  • Hybrid cars
  • Waste recycling
  • Lighting – switch from incandescent to LED lights (residential)
  • Retrofit insulation (commercial)
  • Better motor systems efficiency for vehicles
  • Cropland nutrient management, particulary with fertilizer
  • Clinker substitution by fly ash
  • Electricity from landfill gas/methane
  • Efficiency improvements by different industries
  • Rice management
  • 1st generation biofuels
  • Small hydro
  • Reduced slash and burn agriculture conversion
  • Reduced pastureland conversion
  • Grassland management
  • Geothermal energy
  • Organic soil restoration
  • Building energy efficiency in new builds
  • 2nd gen biofuels
  • Degraded land restoration
  • Pastureland afforestation
  • Nuclear energy
  • Degraded forest reforestation
  • Low penetration wind technology and energy
  • Solar CSP technology and energy
  • Solar PV technology and energy
  • High penetration wind technology and energy
  • Reduced intensive agriculture conversion
  • Power plant biomass co-firing
  • Coal CCS new build
  • Iron and steel CCS new build
  • Coal CCS retrofit
  • Gas plant CCS retrofit



Ideas for mitigation in each sector where greenhouse gases come from might include:

  • eliminate the burning of coal, oil and, eventually, natural gas
  • invest in companies practicing carbon capture and storage
  • use plant-derived plastics, biodiesel, wind power, solar and renewable energy
  • Invest in building upgrades and new buildings – thicker and better insulation
  • Build Better roads
  • More efficient cement production processes – more efficient fuels to fire up the kilns
  • Less vehicle travel – more transit, bike and walking.
  • Better and less use of planes and jets
  • Buy less in general – energy is used to make all products, so it makes sense to cut back
  • Use more efficient lighting and appliances
  • Go vegetarian
  • Stop deforestation, and plant more trees
  • Work on overpopulation
  • Renewable energy experimentation
  • Biofuels, and hydrolisation
  • Geoengineering



  • Carbon taxes and carbon tariffs
  • Choose a utility company that generates at least half its power from wind or solar and has been certified
  • Insulate your home, and have more efficient heating and cooling
  • Offer tax credits for homes and businesses that install carbon efficient tech
  • Energy efficient appliances – refrigerators, washing machines, and other appliances, look for the Energy Star label
  • Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat your water. So take shorter showers, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, and switch to WaterSense-labeled fixtures and appliances.
  • Eat the food you buy. Make less of it meat. Meat is resource intensive
  • Change to LEDs – LED lightbulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than conventional incandescents.
  • Pull all plugs and ‘idle’ devices
  • Gas-smart cars, such as hybrids and fully electric vehicles, save fuel and money. And once all cars and light trucks meet 2025’s clean car standards, which means averaging 54.5 miles per gallon, they’ll be a mainstay. For good reason: Relative to a national fleet of vehicles that averaged only 28.3 miles per gallon in 2011, Americans will spend $80 billion less at the pump each year and cut their automotive emissions by half.
  • Maintain cars -If all Americans kept their tires properly inflated, we could save 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year. A simple tune-up can boost miles per gallon anywhere from 4 percent to 40 percent, and a new air filter can get you a 10 percent boost.
  • Planes, trains and automobiles – choosing to live in walkable smart-growth cities and towns with quality public transportation leads to less driving, less money spent on fuel, and less pollution in the air. Less frequent flying can make a big difference, too. “Air transport is a major source of climate pollution,” Haq says. “If you can take a train instead, do that.”
  • Pay for carbon offsets



According to

  • To keep global temperature rise below the agreed 2°C, global carbon emission must peak in the next decade and from 2070 onward must be negative
  • The goal, with the Paris Agreement in mind, is limiting warming to 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement went further, aiming to “pursue efforts” towards a more ambitious goal of just 1.5℃. Given we’re already at around 1℃ of warming, that’s a relatively short-term goal.
  • The warming will slow to a potentially manageable pace only when human emissions are reduced to zero. The good news is that they are now falling in many countries as a result of programs like fuel-economy standards for cars, stricter building codes and emissions limits for power plants. But experts say the energy transition needs to speed up drastically to head off the worst effects of climate change
  • The energy sources with the lowest emissions include wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectric dams and nuclear power stations. Power plants burning natural gas also produce fewer emissions than those burning coal. Using renewables can be costlier in the short term
  • Burning gas instead of coal in power plants reduces emissions in the short run, though gas is still a fossil fuel and will have to be phased out in the long run
  • “Clean coal” is an approach in which the emissions from coal-burning power plants would be captured and pumped underground. It has yet to be proven to work economically, but some experts think it could eventually play a major role.



  • Mitigation of climate change are actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or enhance the capacity of carbon sinks to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • There is a large potential for future reductions in emissions by a combination of activities, including energy conservation and increased energy efficiency; the use of low-carbon energy technologies, such as renewable energy, nuclear energy, and carbon capture and storage; and enhancing carbon sinks through, for example, reforestation and preventing deforestation.
  • A 2015 report by Citibank concluded that transitioning to a low carbon economy would yield positive return on investments.
  • Apart from mitigation, adaptation and climate engineering are other options for responses.



Climate change mitigation:

  • Mitigation involves reducing emissions, becoming more efficient with energy usage,  or increasing carbon sinks (reforestation)



Climate change adaptation:

  • Climate change adaptation is a response to global warming, that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of social and biological systems to relatively sudden change and thus offset the effects of global warming.
  • Even if emissions are stabilized relatively soon, global warming and its effects should last many years, and adaptation would be necessary to the resulting changes in climate.
  • Adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of the effects of global warming.
  • That is, the capacity and potential for humans to adapt (called adaptive capacity) is unevenly distributed across different regions and populations, and developing countries generally have less capacity to adapt.
  • Furthermore, the degree of adaptation correlates to the situational focus on environmental issues. Therefore, adaptation requires the situational assessment of sensitivity and vulnerability to environmental impacts



Climate engineering:

  • Climate engineering or climate intervention, commonly referred to as geoengineering, is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, usually with the aim of mitigating the adverse effects of global warming.
  • Climate engineering is an umbrella term for measures that mainly fall into two categories: greenhouse gas removal and solar radiation management.
  • Greenhouse gas removal approaches, of which carbon dioxide removal represents the most prominent subcategory addresses the cause of global warming by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Solar radiation management attempts to offset effects of greenhouse gases by causing the Earth to absorb less solar radiation.
  • Some carbon dioxide removal practices, such as afforestation, ecosystem restoration and bio-energy with carbon capture and storage projects, are underway to a limited extent.
  • Most experts and major reports advise against relying on climate engineering techniques as a main solution to global warming, in part due to the large uncertainties over effectiveness and side effects. However, most experts also argue that the risks of such interventions must be seen in the context of risks of dangerous global warming.



According to Wikipedia:

  • Excess CO2 emitted since the pre-industrial era is projected to remain in the atmosphere for centuries to millennia, even after emissions stop. Even if human carbon dioxide emissions were to completely cease, atmospheric temperatures are not expected to decrease significantly for thousands of years.



1. IPCC Fifth Assessment Report –















16. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) – “CO₂ and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘’ [Online Resource]